Oberlin Blogs

Returning: Waiting for the shock

January 3, 2009

Chris Gollmar ’10

I’m back in the United States. Actually, I came back two weeks ago and have been hiding out at home in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, spending my days reading other people’s blogs rather than contributing to this one. But hey, I can always just say that I haven’t been writing because I’m suffering from culture shock. Except I’m not, at least as far as I can tell.

Yes, the 100-degree (Fahrenheit) temperature difference from when I got on the plane in Buenos Aires to when I disembarked in Chicago was a bit jolting, and it feels really weird to be speaking in English all of the time, but I’m not depressed, I’m not sleeping all of the time, I don’t yet miss anybody from Buenos Aires, I’m not frustrated with American culture—in short, I’m just fine being home. All that I can dig up are a couple minor annoyances.*

But I have this anxiety about going back to Oberlin. Home is one thing—really, it hasn’t changed at all, except that my mom moved the bed out of my bedroom—but time moves differently on college campuses. Last May I sent out several emails congratulating and saying goodbye to various friends that were graduating. They won’t be around when I get back, and there will be a whole new crop of first-years in their stead. The co-op will have seen a similar turnover as well as the Review and Lambda Union, two organizations I was involved with. So many new names and faces.

That’s only half of it, though. College being what it is, individual students themselves change over the course of their four or five years. I overheard one of my aunts telling my sister at a family Christmas gathering this past week that each year of college is so different and so brimming with experiences that it could be a full book in itself. That certainly coincides with my own observations: Maybe I am the same person I was when I entered Oberlin in Fall 2005, but I don’t hang out with the same people, I don’t wear the same clothes, I don’t eat the same food, I don’t write the same music, I don’t speak the same, I don’t walk the same, and so on and so forth.

As much as it feels like I simply pressed pause on my life and took a yearlong vacation in Buenos Aires, that clearly can’t be the case. My challenge, then, is to make sure that my year away does not become a gap or a hole. I feel like I have to reconcile these two mutually exclusive moments in my life and try to make them into one. This is where I insert the stereotypical line about taking advantage of this as a moment of personal growth. I guess it’s true, though.

I don’t want to come to any conclusions in this post; it’s only the beginning of my process of returning to Oberlin. I’m also dead tired, having spent the last several hours once again packing up all of my belongings for the drive back to campus tomorrow. (I am such a great procrastinator.) Stay tuned for more exciting updates from balmy Northeast Ohio.

* Two annoyances so far: cars and pennies. Cars because they’re overused. I can walk ten blocks, thank you very much. Or I could take the bus. Pennies because they’re useless, and you always get a small handful of them with your change at the store.

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