That's the never-ending question. As a prospective student, I was mostly concerned with name and status. I felt that attending a well-known, well-regarded institution would ensure success as I entered the career world, and impress those around me. Before I came here, being an Obie meant showing off.
During the week of orientation, new students are required to attend a series of lectures and performances that address issues on college campuses in general, and at Oberlin specifically. The event series allowed older students to share their stories regarding sexuality, gender identity, race, power dynamics, assault, and much more. Those programs inspired me to reconsider how all of those themes exist in my life. In that week, being an Obie meant questioning everything else I was.
As I made friends and began to comprehend the Oberlin social hierarchy, I became disheartened by the near-bureaucratic nature of knowing people. Operating within the Art and Theater spheres particularly caused me to reckon with a certain breed of toxic popularity that is typically associated with "Mean Girls"-esque high schoolers, but is alive and well at Oberlin. At that time, being an Obie meant worrying about who I knew and who knew me.
Over time, the pressures of college began to overwhelm me. For two weeks after Winter Term, I came down with the flu, and was consequently subsumed by a stack of late and missing assignments. Because of this, my anxiety reached an all-time high. My grades and relationships both suffered. I wasn't sure if I would be able to finish the semester. As a matter of fact, I very nearly applied to transfer. At the eye of this perfect storm, being an Obie meant wishing I was anything else.
My a cappella group, the Obertones, spends every spring break on tour in a different part of the country. Over tour, we went to my hometown in Massachusetts and performed at a Church for many of my friends and family. This confluence of past and present was extraordinary; I was able to bring the people with whom I was forming such strong connections to the place in which I was raised. Then, being an Obie entailed immense pride.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to write an article about Oberlin that was not entirely positive, especially because it is the time when prospective students decide whether or not to attend this school. The truth is that Oberlin, like every college, is an imperfect place. I don't wake up every day with inexplicable energy. I don't feel comfortable being here all the time. I don't love everyone that I've met.
I've had countless amazing experiences here. I've seen and learned more about myself in the past eight months than I had in the previous five years. Oberlin is a furnace, and everything here burns intensely. Things here move, melt, and reshape nonstop. No definition for an Obie stays the same for long. Being an Obie means questioning that particular identity over and over, sometimes in a rambling and borderline incomprehensible blog.
At least, that's what it means for me to be an Obie. Now, tell me what it means for you!