Thursday, June 03, 2004

My College Daze: An Overview of My Freshman Experience at Millikin University

The following is the first part of my essay examining my first year in college. I don't know how many parts there will be or when they'll be completed...so don't ask (hehe). By the way, Big Blue is Millikin's mascot...FYI. Please remember, this is a work in progress. Thank you.

Part One: Big Blues(?)

In hindsight, I was more than nervous, frightened even, about beginning my college career, away from the security net of my parents, grandparents, and structured high school life. For eighteen years life was sugar coated. Despite my mother's liberal attitude towards parenting which afforded me more independence than most of my friends, life as I knew it was safeguarded by societal norms thoroughly enforced by high school, law enforcement, and especially my loving grandparents. My preconceived notions of college were the polar opposite of my secure high school life; the safety nets of my youth would be removed or at least have larger holes.

After packing the car with the essentials (computer, clothes, books, and, of course, the TV), my mother, grandfather, and I began the hour and a half journey to Millikin University, the place I tried to think of as a home away from home. An uneasy almost solemn silence accompanied our car ride; no one spoke more than a few words at a time. Looking back, I probably should have done more to ease my mother’s anxiety. Letting go must have been beyond difficult after eighteen years of trying desperately to hold on, watching me grow and mature, trying to mold me into a "good" boy while allowing me the freedom to be me. She tried to sleep, probably to get her mind off of the day. I "woke" her upon our arrival.

Moving in is barely a blur now. Everything was hurried, as if my grandfather, the man who for eighteen years was (and still is) my father figure, wanted me moved in as soon as possible. It's funny how people deal with stress differently; my mother had silence and my grandfather, haste. My roommate had arrived earlier and he graciously helped me with my "stuff." His parents greeted my mother and grandfather as I, for the first time, looked upon the matchbox my school called a "room" that I was to call home for the school year.

With the physical moving complete, unpacking and organization were next on the agenda. My mother insisted on making my bed, a final gesture, no doubt, of her undying need and want to care for me. Unpacking took much longer than packing and moving combined, and by the time we finished, my mother and grandfather decided we should go to lunch. I guess haste and silence fell by the wayside as reality beckoned.

Sitting in a cold, plastic booth at a local fast food joint, we had a long talk. The conversation while undoubtedly sincere seemed fake and contrived. "Are you (scared, anxious, tired, excited, happy, sad, etc. etc. etc.)?" My grandfather, like always, tried to my make light of the situation. "Don't let them liberal professors change your mind," he warned. "Damn Hippies." I told him he had nothing to worry about in-between sips of my fourth or fifth Pepsi--caffeine is how I deal with stress.

Was I upset with the farewell lunch? At the time, yes. I wanted more than the standard questions and menial jokes. I wanted both of them to say something inspirational, something profound that would take away all of my worries and cast me off onto my own with the comfort of knowing everything would be fine not only in college but at home as well. I know now there are no such words, and I have no regrets, qualms, or animosities towards that send off lunch. My family did what they know how to do, and for that, I'll be forever grateful.

After the food and conversation digested, my mother and grandfather dropped me off in front of New Hall Four. My mother cried, openly, for the first time, hugging me as if her arms, locked tight behind me, could somehow keep me from leaving home, leaving her, and leaving my childhood. My grandfather shook my hand and with a smile and nod said only what he needed to say, "Good luck, buddy. I love ya."

With that, I used my new key to unlock the front door of New Hall Four, which for me was New Home One, and as the cold, stale air gently rushed to greet my face, I knew "we" were no longer "we," "us" no longer "us." Were we now two separate entities, my family and I, with two separate lives meeting only in tangent? I felt myself in an Orwellian state, contradicting thoughts fighting for supremacy in my mind, all of which I deemed to be true. Thus, happiness and sadness filled me equally as my family and I went our separate ways, bonded by blood, spirit, and love, separate and one for eternity and beyond.

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