Something a bit monumental happened today: first semester classes ended. While a few projects with late due dates linger, and exams loom at the beginning of next week, for all practical purposes, I’m half way through my freshman year at Swarthmore. Winter break is almost here!
It’s rather strange to think how quickly the time has passed since August 25th, when my mom and stepfather dropped me off, and even stranger to think of how much has changed since then. The Jacqueline of August 24th was terrified of college life, unsure if she would be able to cope with the work. Now, I have much more confidence in my abilities to do well (though “well” is defined a bit more loosely than in high school).
On August 24th, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find people I liked. Today, I have a hard time thinking of classmates that I don’t like. On August 24th, I couldn’t imagine that I would be happy living in a dorm, always surrounded by other people. And while I’ll admit that at times I crave the solitude and quiet I had in my own room, now I really enjoy being able to live so close to my friends– a new experience for someone who always went to Catholic schools forty minutes away from home. On August 24th, my motto was taken from The Hobbit: “Respectable people don’t have adventures!” But today, I’m like Bilbo Baggins of the end of the story, when he’s found his courage and learned to embrace new experiences.
I think the biggest difference between pre-Swat Jacqueline and Swat-Jacqueline is part of the reason the semester seems to have flown by. From ninth grade on, I had constantly running countdowns to the nearest break, summer, and high school graduation. During senior year, I knew the exact number of hours until I would “get out of here.” I was always waiting for something better, some day when I would be in a consistently enjoyable, interesting environment. And as I headed back to Swarthmore after Thanksgiving weekend, I realized I had no idea how far away Christmas vacation was, let alone graduation day. I’m not counting down to anything anymore, because I’m happy to be at school.
Granted, I love being at home too, and there are still times when I really miss my family and my old life. But I actually like being at school. This sort of general happiness, contentment with the way just about everything is going, is ideal in a way I never pictured my life being. It’s kind of like that old Cat Stevens song that always pops up when I use Pandora Radio: “I’ve been happy lately, thinking about good things to come/ And I believe it could be, something good has begun.”
So yes, I’m eager for this week to pass so I can go home and celebrate the holidays with my parents, stepfather, aunts, and brother, but I’m not rushing toward the end of my career here.
On a completely separate note, I’ve heard that the early decision letters went out, and I want to congratulate the new members of the Swarthmore “family.” Your hard work has really paid off, and hopefully, you’ll love Swat as much as I obviously do.
On the other hand, if the news isn’t good, don’t lose heart. As Jim Bock, the dean of admissions, told us on the first day, “The only mistakes the admissions committee makes are the people we reject.” Even President Obama didn’t get in to Swarthmore!
Don’t let this set back get you down– there’s a place out there for you, and you can still go on to do great things.
So, here’s hoping everyone has a safe, joyful holiday season!