Sitting in my dorm room in Buchanan Hall three-and-a-half-years ago, I was 18, unsure of my place in the college ecosystem and feeling okay knowing the F&M world was, for the time being, my oyster. The beginning of college offers a nearly blank slate, with seemingly infinite time to draw in friends, good grades, bad grades, and an eventually storied acumen in one subject or another (or maybe three of four if you’re really indecisive). One does drag in, though, conceptions of the world gained in high school and prior grades, both exposed for improvement and/or disassembling.
At this point in my life, my oyster is nearly done polishing its pearl. I’ve navigated the hallways of Ware and Bonchek with aplomb, and I’ve at last placed, painstakingly at times, all my eggs in the baskets of the sciences and classics. I’ve dismantled my limited worldview and built a sturdy new one with the promised magic of liberal arts, deep conversations, and an informed, individual perspective of news and events. I’ve forgotten and relearned how to write countless times across the subjects. I’ve joined clubs, left clubs, run clubs. I’ve figured out more about myself, my strengths, and my flaws than I ever really wanted to. I’ve learned so much about grammar that sometimes my brain hurts, and I end a sentence with a preposition anyways, because I want to.
In a few short weeks, I will be ceremoniously thrust into the real world. As many seniors are, I am going through a terrible rollercoaster of fears, highs, and nerves — day to day I can’t wait to graduate, then I never want to graduate, then I’m ridiculously invested in my work, then I’m incredibly demotivated and can do nothing but passively receive television shows. But my overarching feeling is one of peace; I know all of my experiences at this institution, for good or bad, have made me who I am. College has matured my friends and me in ways our brains had never entertained as wild, arrogant 18 year olds.
Yes, there are things I would change about this college. There are things everyone would change about every college. Yes, I may have been able to see the same things about the world and mature in the very same way had I picked a different institution of higher learning. But I’m so very glad I chose this one. When the air is crisp and the sun is threatening to dip below the horizon, and I round the bend of Hartman Green where the last tendrils of autumn sunlight are blasting through the spaces in the rattling brown leaves, I feel my heart soar. No matter how many papers I have to write or tests I have to memorize endless facts for, the unexpected beauty of this place still gets me.
My advice to everyone, graduating, enrolling, plodding, or otherwise, is to voice your opinions, prioritize the things you want out of your college experience, and, above all, bask in the options available to you. If you aren’t digging the chemistry classes, don’t take any more. If you want to study abroad, do it. Punch uncertainty in the face; push through your misgivings and kick ass at whatever it is that gets your gears turning. Don’t waste these short/long four years questioning whether your path is the right one. Also, join the school newspaper! It was the best decision I ever made.
Questions? Email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.