Most people recognize some variation of “the black hoodie.” That one article of clothing represents more than a dated sense of style. For reasons unique to the individual, this article managed to become a seminal part of high school identity. “The black hoodie” can take the form of any piece of clothing that you would feel naked without and would wear almost every day.
In my case, my “black hoodie” was literal: an ebony sanctuary that made me feel like less like a nerd. I wore my hoodie all throughout high school. The days when the temperature would rise above 70 and I would have to take it off and the mights I misplaced it before school filled me with anxiety. That black hoodie defined me more than my name did during those years. In hindsight I find that somewhat embarrassing. At the time, I felt perfectly content in the safe space that my black hoodie provided.
My hoodie represented my comfort zone. I wore it every day without notice or ridicule. It filled the inexplicable incompleteness that I felt.
It’s crazy to think that I don’t even know where to find my black hoodie anymore.
Upon entering college, I was under the delusion that I could cling to notions of security from my black hoodie. This fantasy quickly dissipated after one week at Florida State University.
From day one, FSU disrupted the comfort of my “black hoodie.” I began to take notice of the difference in demographics between my hometown and Florida State. Being from Atlanta, my high school had a very diverse, predominantly black, student body. As an African-American, I did not think that coming to a campus that was predominantly white would have that large an impact on me. But there is something about the idea of me not just being “the guy with the black hoodie” anymore, but rather, “the black guy with the hoodie.” This is not to say that I experienced any racial discrimination, but it’s hard to feel at ease in your “hoodie” when everyone else starts to notice it.
If that first disruption of my norm was the unzipping of my metaphorical “hoodie,” a moment towards the end of my first semester could be seen as the point where I was ripped out of it. Hopelessly homesick and still stuck to my high school mentality, I studied in solitude. I had not made as many friends as I had hoped after a semester on campus. Then an acquaintance of mine invited me to his band’s concert.
At this point, my “black hoodie” developed a complex in me that inhibited me from branching out. I felt that I would stick out as someone who didn’t belong. My acquaintance insisted this time. I bit the bullet. I put on my black hoodie and made my way to their venue.
Here, I officially became a college student. I was not only exposed to the idea that diversity could be found in people beyond their race, but that my inability to acclimate to college was merely a result of me resisting change. Amongst the deafening rock covers, festive and intoxicated patrons and accepting atmosphere, I relinquished my “black hoodie.” I accepted the fact that college, amidst all its confusing customs, was designed to change me.
Four years later, I am able to reflect on lessons that I learned that night. College will change you. In some cases, into something your earlier self won’t recognize. To fight this change is to miss the point of the collegiate experience. The point is to rip you out of your “black hoodie” and push you into the real world.