Since the start of tenth grade, I’d been dreaming of starting college. It was what I thought of, day in and day out. It consumed my every thought. All I wanted was to move out of my parent’s place and finally be independent, to start life in a new city and meet new people. College provided just that, and I couldn’t wait to get started.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I hated where I lived or who I was around; I had the most lovely people to surround myself with, and they were not the problem. The problem was me, and who other people knew me as.
All I wanted was a fresh start, to go to a place where no one knew me, where no one knew of my past, and I could finally spin myself a new life and have people actually believe it. I wanted a chance to show people exactly who I was and what I stood for, instead of having them hear rumors and lies from everyone else beforehand. I wanted them to see through my facade of ever-present strength and the intricately spun lies I lived in.
Naturally, I shook off dying friendships and quit trying to salvage lost relationships, threw away clothes that reminded me of the time that was long gone, bought a new phone that I could now fill with new pictures and memories, and songs which would now remind me of the happy moments that were about to arrive. I went shopping, filled my suitcase with the wardrobe of the kind of person I wanted to become, cut off my hair like I’d always wanted to, and hopped on that flight. I was ready, or so I thought. No one I knew was as prepared as I was, and yet, trust me, you’re never really ready for this.
I’m the most unattached and emotionally unfazed person you’ll encounter, and yet, the first two days I spent in my new room were petrifying. All the things I was so enthusiastic about, suddenly doomed in front of me intimidatingly. I didn’t even know my way around campus yet, and I couldn’t bring myself to remember the names of the hundreds of people I met every day. I didn’t eat food in the mess for those two days, because the idea of going to a room full of strangers you don’t know, grabbing a plate and eating lunch was now the most daunting task I could think of. Suddenly, I didn’t know where I was, or what I was supposed to be doing. I didn’t know the language the shopkeepers spoke, or what half the things were even called. I didn’t want to encounter any of this, when did I sign up for this kind of intense pressure?
Needless to say, I panicked. I called up my best friend and told him that I think I made a terrible mistake and that I don’t think I was ready for this yet. The reply I got was precisely what I needed to hear, “Dwija, if you get intimidated by college, I doubt what any of us are going to go through. You’re the strongest person I know, but right now you’re just being stupid. Play some music, and unpack your bags. I swear you’ll make it through this, and you’ll find your people in no time. You always do. That’s the only plus-side to your quality of letting people go easily; that you find new ones just as fast.”
In a weird way, that turned out to be true. I found my family here in no time, and saw that I barely missed people back home. It’s been two months, and I still find people spending hours on the phone talking to their old friends, and yet I never even bothered to text them after I left.
There are so many things people don’t tell you about college; of how you never know where to go to be alone, since there’s no place which gives you complete privacy. No one tells you that it never gets easier to use the communal bathroom, and how there’ll always be people you don’t recognize in your room. I suddenly regretted the fact that I never learnt to do the laundry or use the washing machine, or how to clean up my plates and bowls after me. Everything seemed expensive, and I felt pressurized walking around with so much cash in my wallet. This kind of huge responsibility was new to me, and I didn’t feel confident enough to undertake it. My whole idea of time was now warped; I didn’t know how long it’d take to get from one building to another, and always ended up reaching way too early or way too late for class.
But the worst part is how you meet people who’ve figured it all out already, while you don’t even know your timetable by heart. They’ll have cleared exams you weren’t even eligible for, and interned at companies you only dream of scoring a job at in the future. These people make you question your own life goals and long term plans, and make you feel like you’re the single most unaware and lost person in this entire establishment.
Then there’s studying, a routine you *thought* you had down already, right? While giving my first exams here, I realized that everyone studies differently, and at different times. Back home, I’d switch off my phone, lock myself in a room and study till I felt confident enough. Now, that was a next to impossible. I had girls knocking at my door at 3 in the night, recommending books and asking questions I couldn’t make head and tail of. All that just throws you off, and you have no clue of what to study and where to study from. Plus, count in the added pressure of the ‘first ever college test’ and you’re sure to incur a mental breakdown. I didn’t have my mother anymore, making me coffee during my late night study sessions, or my father wishing me luck and telling me he loves me before I run out of the door. In an irrational way, I began to miss my sister, who’d wake up before I left for any important paper, and groggily reassure me that she believed in me and that I’d studied enough, even though she barely knew what I was supposed to be studying.
Back home, everyone has their special spots, their little niches where they’d go and contemplate when life put forward decisions that were too arduous to make. Here, it’s hard to even find an empty sink to brush your teeth in the morning, right before an 8 a.m. class. Then there’s this feeling that still hasn’t disappeared; the explainable sensation that this is somehow just a vacation, and you’ll be going home soon. The truth still hasn’t sunk in of how this is my home now.
There was this freedom that I just couldn’t quite fathom, the emptiness and yet, the abundance of responsibilities that were now showered on me. I could do anything, which meant I could stay up all night watching a movie, or I could spend that time working on assignments. You never really thought you’d miss you parents’ nagging at you to study? You’ll soon realize just how much you needed it.
Here’s my message to everyone starting college: you’re not alone, and everyone around you is just as terrified as you are. You need to believe in yourself before anything else, and trust yourself to make the right decisions. You’ll make it through this, trust me. Everyone does.