One of the best things about college, or so I’ve always been told, is that you get to try out different identities before settling on who you’ll be as an adult. Personally, I’m the sort of person who has always been fairly well aware of who I am, but this past week there have been some paradigm shifting moments.
Besides the basic experiences you have to expect when going to a good school (e.g: What? I’m not one of the smartest ones here? I’m not guaranteed an A anymore?) several of my friends and I have encountered situations that made us change our minds about certain things, and maybe ever-so-slightly, change our personalities.
This phenomenon isn’t just confined to Swarthmore. One of my best childhood friends, who now goes to a different university, has gone from being apathetic about school spirit to being incredibly enthusiastic about the culture, history, and, maybe most shockingly, the football program of her college. That’s a nice change, I suppose, because she sounds happier than usual, and it’s always reassuring to hear that your friends made good decisions.
But, I would argue that we Swatties have the more exposure to these confounding situations than most. After all, Swarthmore does offer a wealth of opportunities and an abundance of potential activities, so maybe it isn’t surprising that students here can be a bit baffled by some of the situations in which they find themselves. For example, at a study break nacho-party on Sunday evening, one of my friends and I were comparing our weekend activities.
“Did you go see Star Trek in LPAC on Saturday night? I didn’t see you there.” I asked, knowing his fondness for sci-fi.
“I really wanted to,” he lamented, “but I had a fencing team dinner!”
“Wow…” I marveled, “athleticism over Star-Trek.”
“I know. Does this mean I’m a jock now?”
“Don’t worry, you’re still much more Swattie than jock.” I said. “Me, on the other hand– I went to a party later that night. Does that mean I’m a party person?”
“YOU? At a party? Why?” he gasped, sounding both amused and concerned.
I explained the situation, saying a friend had wanted to go, but didn’t have anyone to go with. I had gotten tired of practicing my Latin grammar, and agreed. So I went, and I danced (slightly and badly) and I observed people and talked to a few friends. Afterwards, I came to the conclusion that parties are still not really my cup of tea, but I didn’t regret going.
The new roles my friends and I try out– fan, athlete, socialite– are occasionally uncomfortable, sometimes exciting, but almost always worthwhile. Being in a place where a person can experiment with different interests and activities is one of the most enjoyable parts of being in college– even if, at times, it lends itself to identity crises.