Dear Freshman Year,
As I look back on our time together, I experience a vast array of feelings. None of them good, but many, nonetheless. I am disgusted by the severity of the punishments you decided to throw my way—hard classes, awful people, existentialist terror and, of course, the dining hall. You lasted for so long, which I could never have imagined as a fault. However, the shoe fits and seems likely that, given the chance, you’d lace it up and use it to kick my ass.
I’ve decided to voice my complaints so that innocent incoming freshmen will be prepared for the extent of your evil. God, you gave me no warning. You tormented me and I know you enjoyed it. Freshman Year, you embody everything wrong in the world.
I bet, given the chance, you would spoil Avengers: Endgame. You sicken me.
Let’s kick the list off with a major one: relationship issues. Did you think it would be swell to leave me stricken with a bout of break-up depression when I left for college? If so, I invite you to explain yourself because I can assure you, swell is pretty far from how I would describe those first couple weeks. Sure, the freedom of parental abandonment and the excitement of the first drunken voyage to a bar can charge your battery for a while. I’m not denying that.
Unfortunately, though, no amount of amazing experiences can heal an open wound. Neglect only leads to infection and, Freshman Year, you became a staph. I lived the single life, the textbook experience of the college Casanova. Boring. I converted, adopting the beliefs of hopeless romanticism. Pity me, for I am in love and always will be in love, but it will never work. You told me that would be healthy, didn’t you? You told me to allow my emotions to manifest themselves as they saw fit. This advice proved especially dangerous because it can be incredibly useful, if applied correctly.
See, a healthy person listens to logic, listens to emotions, listens to everything that constitutes their character.
Then, instead of blindly following one to the exclusion of the others, they accept direction from all and continue moving through life, perfectly balanced as all things should be. That’s not what you suggested to me. You had me ignore logic and allow the indulgence of emotions until I woke up on one day in October and looked like the Big Lebowski.
Staring at the unflattering figure that weakly met my eyes in the mirror, I knew that you had damaged me. I shivered; my cardigan unable to retain any body heat for I had ceased being hot long ago. My confidence, once so robust that it ranked among the likes of Jeff Bezos and Kanye West, withered away before a host of self-worth issues. Thanks for that.
Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane, now, shall we?
October came and went, and with it my dignity. November rolled around and leaves started to plummet with my spirits, which grew worse by the day. Thanksgiving provided a haven of comfort away from a grueling on-campus experience, but I never could banish reality from sight. Why couldn’t I go back a couple months? Why should I be forced into labors more taxing than Heracles, who had to kill the fiercest lion to have ever lived with his bare hands but never had to attend a lecture for IDS 1161: What is the Good Life?
I sank into a feeling that a certain joy I possessed in childhood had gone extinct and would never return. In hindsight, I know the certainty of this as well as I know that I’ll never win a Victory Royale in Fortnite. The death of my childish joy came from a murder, the culprit of which I believe to be very obvious. I would recommend a good legal team, Freshman Year.
This death happens in all of us at some point or another. In some cases, it happens after having kids of their own and can best be described as a mid-life crisis. For others, it gets delayed until life support runs out and they lay dying, realizing they exist as one of the lucky ones who never lost their illusions. For most of us, though, the onset of adulthood proves sufficient to shatter the foolish hopes we built our childhood dreams around. I guess I’m not alone, then, Freshman Year. I appreciate that you care enough to give me company in my suffering.
As for most college kids, the second semester marked a large improvement over the first for me.
You got soft, I think. I would define my first semester as a desolate dating scene and a self-worth lower than that “Shawty” in the applebottom jeans who Flo-Rida always talks about.
My second semester, though, can best be defined as fallout. It seems that you wasted all your offense in the first half, Freshman Year. The pain you wrought that sounded at first like a deafening clamor became nothing more than a muted background humming by the time you wrapped up.
The struggle of the spring came after admitting what I’d lost could not be regained. The second semester saw a large-scale recalibration, a recognition that what life truly looked like differed from what it ought to look like. You finally lost, Freshman Year, the moment I realized that “life” has no model.
No ideal life exists in the world and no blueprint for what it ought to look like can be found.
The truth that existence is vague and can overwhelm or inspire a person. You tried so hard to make sure that I never found that out. Meaninglessness touches all that meets the eye, but it can only be a plague if one lets it.
Freshman Year, you gave a great effort. It’s commendable, in fact. For a chunk of life larger than I’d like to admit, I succumbed to the despair that you fought with such ferocity to instill within me. Certainly, you met your quota for delivering me hardship, and then some. I found issue after issue, and I solved them all only to realize that I wanted to be in a place that I could never return to.
Once I saw that perfection could never come to pass, that the answer can never be a neat bow, I won. I understood that victory over life results from taking the scant and often worthless resources at my disposable and making them work for me, trudging along until one day I stop and look around at a life I enjoy living. Oh, and trying my best to have fun in the process.
Thank you, Freshman Year, for ending.