I want so badly to write about my first semester of college. Of course I want to write about it, as “writing about it,” is what I’ve done for everything important in my life since I was eleven. There are blog posts in my archive and stacks of journals in my closet that stand to prove that “writing about it,” is simply what I always do. I almost think I’m afraid that in writing about it, I won’t do it justice; I won’t be honest about the things that mattered and I’ll over-dramatize the things which should really be forgotten. Writing about an entire semester in a handful of paragraphs seems daunting and impossible. It’s hard to write about it without feeling like I should include every detail. In the past, I’ve been almost obsessive about the amount that I document because I don’t trust myself to remember everything. Which, of course, is valid. It’s an inevitable truth that I won’t remember everything, but I also don’t need to. Sometime last year, I’d finally accepted this––that I’ll hold on to the things that matter and the rest I need to let go of. So, although I’m feeling the need to talk about every little thing as I write about my first semester, I’m accepting that I don’t need to.
Amid all the things that don’t matter enough to write about are the really important things that I almost feel like I must write about. I’ve accepted that I don’t have to write about everything, but I’m still trying to get a grasp on writing honestly about the things I need to write about. There are so many things that, looking back on this semester, I should have done differently. But there are also so many things that surprised me beyond belief and made the semester what it was. I’ve found that these are the things that I need to write about most.
This semester started off with me, someone who hadn’t played piano since she was 8, playing keyboard in the Freshmen Fanfare band. It also involved me, someone who––still––hadn’t played piano since she was 8, playing Someone Like You on an unnaturally hard to play baby grand piano while singing, also for Freshmen Fanfare. Conversations during those days basically went a little like this: them: “I didn’t know you played piano!” me: “Neither did I!” Or, “How long have you been playing piano?” me: “Since three days ago.” As crazy as that experience was, surprising me by actually being enjoyable despite simultaneously being annoying, I realized that, sometimes, impulsively trying out for a show on piano leads to the best things. (Or, impulsively trying out for anything, as I realized later in the semester when I last-minute tried out for Spring Sing host and actually got a callback. Which was just another crazy experience that I could hardly believe was real.)
I thought all of it was over in September after the second and final fanfare performance, but it turned out that I was dead wrong. As I texted my sister, “the saga of my piano playing continues!” because in November, I played keyboard with an actual band. (I say this almost like it’s a huge deal when, truthfully, it’s a small band, it was a small show, and, inherently, none of us are famous. But it was still so cool to get to do. And when they are famous, I’ll have a story to tell, right?) I laughed at myself every day because up until two months before, I would try to play something on piano and my sister (who is actually amazing at playing piano) would laugh at me and call it hopeless. It’s not exactly normal to go from not having played an instrument for nine years to performing in a little over a month. The fact that I’m an obsessive perfectionist and weirdly love practicing really paid off both for myself and for the people counting on me to play when I pulled through and actually played decently. Hands down, it was one of the highlights of my first semester to get to do something so unreal and so unexpected. This, along with the fact that I play flute in band, am in choir, and am basically in the music building way more than I should be, I get mistaken for being a music major often. And I don’t mind much because I genuinely love being involved in all of it. Back when I was preparing for my senior recital last spring, I realized why I love music so much despite not being very serious about it or wanting to pursue it as a career. I wrote on the back of my programs, “There’s a calmness I know I can always find in music. Throughout my life so far, writing song lyrics has been a major way of dealing with what’s going on around me, and playing music has been a way for me to productively focus restless energy. I’m always saying that I don’t get nervous when it comes to having to preform, and that’s because music is a source of release for me.” The fact that I can continue to do music (and in such big ways) in and throughout college means so much. My first semester took me in a direction laced with music that I never planned on going in, and it has made all the difference. •
Almost seven months ago, I wrote, “I know that when I come back I’ll have changed and they’ll have changed and while I can still expect it to feel so much like home, I can never expect it to be the same as it is now. These are the only moments I have that will ever be like this.” The reality of this inevitable changing is sinking in now that it really does feel different to be home after having been gone. Life and being here…it will never be the same as it was before I left, and I am desperately trying to realize this with grace and without conflict. I never know how to react when I come home. I’m undoubtedly overjoyed to be with my family again and can never stop smiling because of it, but it’s all so different at the same time. It’s almost easy to sink back into living life exactly as it was before I left, but it seems wrong to do that, doesn’t it? I’ve been gone for months and I’m going to come back and pretend like nothing’s happened? There isn’t a part of me that wants to live like that when I come home, but there is so much to be said about trying to connect the two: being gone and coming home. Even while at college, it’s hard to find that connection; it’s hard to feel like I’m the same person that I am while at home. The disconnection is so clearly there. I realize again, as I have many times and likely remind myself every single day, that I must live honestly because it is the only means by which I can find clarity. If I’m not acknowledging that things are different both when I’m away and when I’m home––that I’m not consistent and that I don’t know how to make my life feel connected and whole because I’m so horribly good at compartmentalizing the two from each other––I’ll never be able to find that clarity. Coming home and being gone all feels so strange, and remaining honest––so hopeless. But it’s in the honest moments where it all bleeds together. These are the moments that must take hold and take over. •
I wanted to take on my first semester with perfection, obviously. There’s not a thing in the world that I don’t take on without perfection in mind. Of course, my semester didn’t exactly go that way. Before leaving for college, I was at an unbelievably good place in my life; I was the happiest I’d probably ever been and was so, so content. In leaving, I desperately wanted to transition smoothly and perfectly, keeping whatever disposition I’d attained intact. No fear, no confusion, no mistakes, right? Naturally, in trying to do everything perfectly, I was really just doing it all wrong. What they don’t tell you is: there are going to be days when you realize you’re not friends with the people you should be friends with. There are going to be days when you miss home. There are going to be days when you don’t get 100% on an exam. There are going to be about a million moments where you don’t know what’s happening and you can’t do it alone. And I’ve found that if you don’t let these days happen, it all collapses in the end. Looking at it objectively, my semester went amazingly well. My grades were spot on, my sleep schedule was consistent, I was involved in music, I got picked to be the freshman intern for the university’s literary journal, I had people who I hung out with. Yet, just because every once in a while something didn’t go perfectly or I didn’t know exactly what I was doing or I felt like I was doing it all wrong, I started to view my entire semester in another light entirely. As the semester went on, I got so uptight about small things that honestly didn’t matter. As much as I hate it, that is what happened; that was part of my first semester of college. I got worried and sad and angry and never took a step back to give myself grace where I needed it most. The thing is, I got so concerned. Concerned that I was annoying or wrong or seen as the opposite of what I am. Now, looking back on it, I just needed to calm down and get over myself because I was just too wrapped up in all of it. I wasn’t letting myself make the mistakes I needed to make which was, admittedly, my greatest mistake altogether. •
I’m trying to take a deep breath as I enter into the new year and my second semester. I hope to keep doing the things I love doing and stop bothering with the things I don’t care about. I hope to continue getting the grades I want, but be okay with getting the grades I receive. I hope everyday to be more honest in kindness and stop saying that I hate things when the opposite is true. I hope to keep being involved in music. I hope to find that connection between being gone and coming home. I hope to let myself make the mistakes that are necessary. I hope to write more, because I’ve missed it. And I hope to extend grace not only to others, but also to myself.
stay dynamite :) | Megan