Listen up, Sparklers. I’ve been appointed your gentle guide through the trials and pitfalls of freshman year, though I am neither gentle nor guide-like, and nobody actually appointed me. Nonetheless, much like Napoleon Bonaparte putting the crown on his own head and declaring himself emperor, I’m declaring myself your trusty guide, and you’re all just going to have to follow me blindly through the Russian winter of your freshman year. Except I’ll be a better guide than that, because I’m bringing parkas and hats with earflaps for everyone.
So, it’s September, and these are a couple of the things that are probably happening to you:
1. You’re desperately trying to find a friend group. Those first few weeks are just rife with frantic friend-making, which is more alliteration than I’ve ever used in my entire life. Only during the first month of college can you meet a stranger while you’re, like, in line at the drinking fountain, and wind up signing up for a yoga class together.
2. You don’t know where anything is. You’re wandering around campus squinting at the map on your iPhone, hoping it looks like you’re just answering a text or, I don’t know, reading an eBook. Nobody thinks that. Sorry. No, it’s not your fault. I’m sure you were very discreet, and I’m sure you were walking with the confidence and swagger of an upperclassman with a really good sense of direction and even better hair. But you look like a freshman, and you smell like one, too. (It’s like a new car smell, with a hint of Starbucks.) That’s okay, though. We’ve all been there. We’ve all smelled like new car.
3. You and your new roommate are having the open/shut window dilemma, wherein one person wants it open and one person wants it shut. But things are going pretty well so far, and neither of you wants to rock the boat, so someone’s going to passive-aggressively close it when the other is in the bathroom, and then the other person is going to open it when the first person goes to dinner. Before long, pranks will ensue and someone will have a raccoon in their laundry basket. That last part is optional.
4. You’re confounded by the laundry room, library, and/or dining hall. Either you don’t know where to put your food tray, or you can’t find the salt. For me, it was the butter. Confession time: I never found the butter. And now I live off-campus and I don’t have a meal plan, and I don’t need to find the butter. I literally spent two years eating pancakes without butter. Guys, I ate NAKED PANCAKES. Whatever the butter is for you, find it before it’s too late. Don’t do what I did. Don’t make the same mistakes I made. Don’t have my regrets.
5. You’re homesick. You’re Skyping with your friends, family, and cat every night. Don’t worry—everyone else is doing it, too. And their cats are just as apathetic as yours is.
But here’s the thing—all of this is UNIVERSAL. Everyone else is friendless and running around confusedly and smelling like new car. Whether you’re fitting in quite nicely with the Frisbee-flinging college youths, or you hate them and also everyone else and this is horrible and you just want to go home or possibly transfer… don’t worry. I promise you there are just SCORES of other people feeling exactly what you’re feeling. This is going to be a long, winding, hilarious, and probably mortifying but ultimately rewarding journey that you’ll look back on fondly when you’re almost done and wondering where the hell the time went. My advice, at this juncture, would be…
a) Don’t sweat the small stuff, or the big stuff, for that matter.
b) Be open to the idea of doing something monumentally stupid, like sleeping through a class or setting off the fire alarm or accidentally killing your roommate’s pet turtle. If you can make it through this first month, what with all the scary new experiences and roommate debacles and classroom mishaps, next time I’ll tell you about the horrible, horrible thing that I did my freshman year. It was so hilariously awful that I still laugh-sob about it sometimes, which eventually just becomes sobbing BECAUSE IT WAS REALLY, REALLY AWFUL.
c) Find the butter. For God’s sake, just find the butter.
And remember, Sparklers: death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily. Hm. That’s a Napoleon quote, but it doesn’t really apply here. Seems a little heavy, doesn’t it? I’m just going to say something about naked pancakes and accept the fact that that’s probably going to be attributed to me in a history book someday. That’s probably what will be on my tombstone.
Have you started your freshman year of college yet? DID YOU FIND THE BUTTER??!