At this moment in time, my bed is littered with library books, post-it notes, and various papers on my thoughts about Byzantine medicine. While it looks like I’ve successfully robbed Upjohn Library, I promise, I have not. Yet.
I’ve been hard at work for several hours, so this is me taking a break to reflect on my experience at Kalamazoo College thus far. I’m halfway through Week Six (we number our lives here by weeks), which means I have four more weeks until the trimester ends and winter break is mine to exploit. As my seminar professor puts it, “You’re about to realize the light at the end of the tunnel is a freight train. Let’s hope you know how to dodge it.” With that encouraging thought in mind, I want to think back to orientation week, or “week zero.”
In the months leading up to college, I thought coming here would automatically change my life for the better. In all ways possible. I would meet amazing people, experience amazing things, and do amazing things. This was naive, but it was also intentional. I knew– know– life doesn’t work that way. But I had to have some motivation to at least be willing to uproot my entire existence to come and live here. Not all of my expectations have been met, but then again, it’s only Week Six.
The day I moved in, Michigan decided to be hotter than an oven. For several days, my room was even warmer. I managed to not melt, though sometimes it felt like the world was too hot to live in. The weather may have contributed to how rough my first couple of days here were. I think by day two, I was calling my best friend (she moved into college the week before) and saying how much I just wanted to be at work. Yes, that’s right. I wasn’t lamenting for home, but for EMS. And being in the heart of a big city, I would hear the sirens every day. It was taunting, and it was agonizing. For some weeks, I was convinced college wasn’t for me, on the very grounds that my passion lies elsewhere. That first time I went back to work after moving into college was a breath of fresh air. Because that existence was one I was accustomed to, was one I belonged to. For me, college isn’t so much about surviving as it is belonging.
I live in a single dorm, which is actually a very decent size. I have more storage and space than I know what to do with. I also don’t have to deal with roommate horror stories, a fact I am grateful for. I’ve heard some atrocious ones so far, ranging from catty fights to “please clean up your mess after you wet the bed because it smells like urine in here.” I’m like a monk in a monastery, which is maybe how I’m able to be two weeks ahead in certain classes…
Sharing the bathroom with ten+ girls is the most disgusting thing I have ever had to do. Don’t even get me started on the hair. Or spinach. I don’t understand the lack of common courtesy on my floor– I don’t want to find spinach in the sink we’re all supposed to wash our hands, brush our teeth, and wash our faces in. And screaming. For God’s sakes, I’m an EMT! If I hear screaming, my first instinct is to find out what’s wrong. So if you’re playing friendly games with who knows who, please do so quietly. Especially past 23:00.
Part of orientation week was discussing our summer reading book with the author of that book. In short, that’s how I met Jennine Capó Crucet. She believed in my abilities, and, much to the annoyance of the other people in line behind me, actually answered my questions sincerely. I couldn’t help but call my sister and tell her all about it. Though my mother would never admit it, she was holding her breath, hoping I wouldn’t change my major to English. Little did she know that I had just finished my rough draft of The Pretenders the day before I was set to move into college.
Having finished writing the project that had occupied my life for roughly six years, I was also at a loss of creative ability. Writer’s block set in, which is never a good combination during major life changes. The only thing I was able to write, that first couple of weeks, was a single line on a post-it note taped to my vanity: “You’ll adapt.” I mean, I wasn’t wrong. At the time, however, I was very frustrated the words weren’t flowing.
When classes began, I was ready for the, “Oh, you’re Forrest Bennett’s younger sister” realization that all my teachers had starting from kindergarten and lasting until my senior year in high school. But none of my professors said that, which made me have my own realization: nobody at K knows my older brother. This seemed like a massive feat, though in retrospect, a good majority of the world has no idea who my brother is. However, it was so odd at the time, like seeing past the veil of your own existence. Or maybe a better way to put it, stepping out of your older brother’s shadow.
And it is with this thought that I would like to conclude this post. While sharing a bathroom, suffering from self-alienation and writer’s block were all things I struggled with, the purpose of this post is not to discourage higher education. I know it’s only Week Six, Trimester One, Year One, but I’ve made it this far. This is proof enough that I can make it farther. I disagree with my seminar professor, though. That light isn’t a freight train. It’s a lighthouse illuminating my path onwards.