Oberlin Blogs

We Are All Going to Survive This

December 8, 2011

Eleanor Bronder-Major ’15

Today marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of the week my anxiety about college went into overdrive. As the December 15 estimate for the arrival of Early Decision letters approached, I obsessively refreshed the Oberlin blogs, hoping for some reassurance about the impending letter of decision. I didn't realize, at that point, that college students have finals in the middle of December and that insightful blogs about the nature of waiting were unlikely to be forthcoming.

Well, now I'm starting finals--I have two papers that I've barely started writing due in a week and an exam I'm sure will require at least seven hours of studying--but I'm going to take the time to reassure any ED1 prospective students out there: everything is going to be okay. I mean it. The letters will arrive and you will move on with your life. All the same, I know that the uncertainty can be nerve-wracking. At about this time last year, actually, I had to write a one-act play for class, and I wrote it about uncertainty, just because the theme pervaded my thoughts so completely.

When the letters came (five days late), and I found out that I had gotten into Oberlin, all my worries and cares disappeared. I'm mostly kidding. I was actually really happy for the rest of the year, despite the intervening challenges: finding a summer job, continuing to do reasonably well in school, AP exams, and so forth. Nevertheless, I felt a lot more secure about everything; I was certain that, my place at Oberlin assured, everything would work out.

Everything did work out. Kind of. For the first few weeks I was here, I was so nervous that I obsessively counted the steps it took me to cross every square of pavement, like an amateur musician clinging to the beat amidst a swarm of changing key signatures. Uncertainties--about course selection, about my life goals, about how to open my mailbox and where to go to meals--plagued me. Even as I registered for classes, became comfortable with my roommate, and figured out how to go a day without calling my parents at least twice, I was dreadfully nervous.

Gradually, I fell into a rhythm of classes and co-op jobs and rehearsals. First it was recycling on Wednesday nights; then it was Friday night midnight crew--then Thursday night choir practice. I figured out when I could go to the gym and when I would be too busy. Miraculously, I even made some friends. I began to feel more certain of myself; I began to enjoy my classes.

Over the past few weeks, that comfortable order has been disturbed as one of my friends has been grappling with the decision of whether or not to leave Oberlin. Once again, I am torn by uncertainty. One minute I am filled with elation that I ever had the opportunity to know such an amazing person, and the next with despair that she might leave. Contemplating the coming semester has become a somewhat terrifying prospect as I think about losing the person I could depend on to talk with me for hours, to eat with me at meals, to always have the most arresting perspective or interesting fact.

In retrospect, it seems unbelievably naïve to expect that the uncertainty would end when the decision letter arrived. I live for certainty, though; uncertainty is the bane of my existence. My roommate can attest to this: I am always sure to plan my work out so that I can go to sleep by midnight. To some extent, this sort of desire for certainty, the desire to know what's going to happen and to control outcomes, is useful. Clearly, making sure you get to sleep early every night is good for you; making every effort to get into the college that is right for you is important for your future success. But this past month has made it clear that you can never really expect complete certainty about anything.

Last Wednesday, as usual, I woke up early to make breakfast. It had snowed, and the two (very weird) recipes I had found on the Internet turned out to be perfect for the weather. Having completed my breakfast duties, I retired to the lounge with a book on Freud, a blanket, and Bach's cello suites. As I settled down into the book and the music, I realized that I was happy: despite the pressure of math quizzes, topic proposals, and the presentation I would shortly have to write about the book I was starting to read, I felt secure for the moment.

Despite the uncertainty that is making me (and probably you) miserable, I think that security in the moment could be enough.

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