Sometimes College Isn't Great
Usually when I'm on an airplane, I'm alone. That's what happens when you're in college.
Maybe I've grown more paranoid, or maybe there really is something is in the air, but it seems like the flights I'm taking have been suffering from more turbulence than usual.
I'm a nervous person by nature. I don't like roller coasters or anything considered "adventurous." Even rock climbing is too much for me. So when there's even the slightest bump, I panic.
I start thinking of the worst possible outcome. Sounds morbid, I know. Rationally, I understand that I have a much higher chance of getting into a car crash than a plane crash. I try to remember that scene at the end of Say Anything when John Cusack tries to calm a nervous Ione Skye on the plane, saying that most plane incidents happen within five minutes of take-off. I think of this fact and tell it to myself over and over.
But inevitably, my fear takes over. I have no one's hand to hold.
That's what college sometimes feels like.
It's a trial run of adulthood where I'm often left to deal with things alone. Most of the time, being alone is ok. Making appointments, going grocery shopping, living on my own - these things aren't scary. They can occasionally bring about the feeling of "Oh my God, I'm really doing it, aren't I?" but it's a feeling of novelty rather than fear.
When being alone really sucks is when dealing with my mental health.
It's been a stressful semester. I've dropped out of a class. My grandfather passed away. The solid support system I had last year is no more. While overall it hasn't been a bad semester, this is my first time dealing with a lot of these challenges. My first year of college was occasionally stressful, but otherwise pleasant. I knew the day would come when I had a problem class or got a bad grade on an assignment, and boy, oh boy, has that day come.
College is far less static than high school. High school was boring, but relatively calm. My stress-level was regulated. I had the same group of friends throughout. It was fine, but definitely not the best time of my life. Everyone says that's what college is. And it was - for a time.
Unlike high school, my friend group in college was not stable. Which is to be expected - everyone's trying to figure out who they click with and what they want to do. But when it seems like everyone else is clicking and you're not, you start to wonder if there's something wrong with you. Also, last year I lived in a freshman dorm and knew a ton of people and could knock on their door and destress with them. This year, I live in East, which has many problems by nature of it being East, but the amount of people that I know in this building is pretty limited.
It sucks to feel like you're doing college wrong. When you've spent all this time building up a mental image of what it should be, and it doesn't quite live up to that image, it can be a reality check. Especially when you see other people seemingly having experiences living up to that ideal and your thoughts become the titles of Mindy Kaling's books - "Is everyone hanging out without me?" and "Why not me?"
It sucks to not have that distance from people that high school brought about. If I had a problem with high school, I got to leave at the end of the day and go home and not think about it. Plus, I had the luxury of talking with my parents.
Oberlin's location is also a challenge for me. Coming from a big city, even if I didn't always take advantage of all the cool things Houston offers, they were there. The year round nice weather means I can always take a walk when I need to get out of my head. I have a car and therefore can go places. I have more than just five restaurants to choose from. Oberlin is a nice town, but it's just that - a town. It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere with some cool things to do, but sometimes I need more cool things to do than going to the Allen or the Arb.
I recently reread The Bell Jar, and I could not have done it at a more perfect time. I would suggest it to everyone, but especially college students who feel lost and confused, as that's exactly who the protagonist Esther Greenwood is. Many many lines stuck out to me while reading, but one of them that really *got me* was when Esther says this:
"I was supposed to be having the time of my life."
Bless you, Sylvia Plath. Bless you for writing this whole damn book. Seriously, if you don't end up reading it, at least browse a page of quotes from it and you'll get a good idea of this semester's mindset for me.
As I said before, this hasn't been a bad semester. I've had some great things happen to me as well. I declared a major. I was elected to a leadership position in SURF. I've enjoyed and learned a lot from my classes. I've been to some cool concerts and events. However, when you have that pressure on yourself to make these four years "the best years of your life" a decent semester doesn't feel good enough. To be honest, in my time here, I've learned a lot - about myself, about academia, about the world around me. And here's one thing I've learned - "the best years of your life" is, at best, a fragile concept.
The Oberlin blogs highlight a lot of really great stuff about college, which is awesome. But sometimes going to school at Oberlin isn't always awesome. It can be intensely difficult and not just in terms of academics. I wouldn't trade my time here for anything, but I think it's worthy to reflect on some realities of life here, for posterity, for those around me to learn from, and for my own mental sanity.