From the sweltering summer morning I dragged my whole life into that tiny dorm room until today, two weeks later, I have experienced the best and worst days of my life. My newfound freedom has become a blessing and a curse. I get to do nothing all day without worrying about my parents coming up over my shoulder to complain. I spend my weekends alone in the library, unsure of how to spend my time. I walk into the Deece, find a quiet corner, and once again put my headphones on to eat alone. I go from class to class, smiling and giggling when my professor lets me look at a rare moth. I sit on a bench and sob while it pours, unsure of what I am doing and why I am here. I sit with my student fellow group and watch “Jennifer’s Body.” I curl up under the covers of my far-too-tall bed and cry while ignoring the stranger on the other side of my room. I have no friends and far too many textbooks. I drink more coffee than is safe and ignore the pit in my chest when I think about how lonely I am. I sweat through my clothes and then shiver in the library.
There is no way to boil down my first-year experience into a concise explanation. In the three weeks since I first arrived, I have snuck onto roofs and melted on the third floor of Rocky. I have no idea what I am doing, but why does that matter? I have met hundreds of people, their names becoming alphabet soup in my brain. I eat at the weirdest hours and cannot bring myself to care. Is this adulthood? I spend far too much time in dark corners of the library; my classes quickly consume my life. I dip my toes into the world of college parties and once again find myself disappointed. I have spent the past four years frantically waiting for the moment I could leave high school behind and go to college. I am finally here, yet it feels like nothing has changed. I still spend my days alone; I cry far too often; I find myself wanting something more.
How is it that this is my next four years? Late nights spent listening to music and watching the rain fall. I drag myself out of bed on quiet Sunday mornings and prepare for another college week. I walk from one side of campus to the other; the feeling of being lost never goes away, not even when I stand in the room I have started to call home. Not much has changed in these three long weeks, yet I am a completely different person. I go days without talking to my parents, or really anyone at all. I am overwhelmed by my mile-long to-do list, yet bored. I love my classes, but I also want to curl up in a ball and never get out of bed again. I keep meeting the same people over and over again. Their names never seem to stick and their faces blur together.
I am miserable and also the happiest I have ever been. I am in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I am finally getting to choose what I study. I can spend as much time alone as I want. My first-year experience is one of joy and sorrow. This is everything I have ever wanted and the most difficult challenge. I do not know how my four years at Vassar will look—all I can do now is hope. I can hope that I find friends, figure out who I am and what I want; hope that this feels normal and hope that my perpetual headache fades. As the weather cools and the days get shorter, I finally feel myself settling in. I cannot quite believe myself when I say that I belong here. But I do.
Many of my peers have begun congregating in small groups. Their friendships are already established. I desperately cling to any sense of belonging and friendship; I long for a shoulder to lean and cry on after a long day. But I find comfort in the heat of the sun and the smell of freshly cut grass. I smile and wave at absolute strangers, pretending to remember where I met them. I feel out of place and out of my mind. I claim a library table, and it becomes my new home. I blast sad music and wonder why I am unhappy. My only consolation is that this will get better. I am a raincloud ruining a sunny day. But now all I have to do is look for another person who loves the rain as much as I do.