the groanings of a stuck senior
The day I moved into my senior housing, my sister was already weeks into her freshman year of college. She called me later that night, regaling me with tales of her first football game and the silly antics of her new group of friends. She relayed with exacting detail the inordinately comfortable study space she had found in a well-lit corner of the student lounge. She extolled the virtues of her regular weekend brunches where she was able to indulge in special gluten free pancakes. Throughout the entire conversation, her voice was breathy and high-pitched, her delight evident in every rushed word. She was experiencing newness, and I envied how even the communal shower experience, while disgusting, was something of an adventure to her.
As a senior who did not study abroad, I have spent more than enough time at Brown. That is not to say that I am ready to graduate right this instant, but the campus and surrounding city no longer seem teeming with alluring secrets and new opportunities. I know where I like to study, what to order at Blue State, and where I want to hang out come Friday night. While there is something nice about this familiarity, this comfort I have found for myself away from home, there is also something stifling. Sometimes it seems as if I am just biding my time, waiting for graduation, until I can start my life in the city. I am lucky to know what I want to do come graduation, yet the classes that stand between now and then seem like necessary roadblocks instead of enjoyable steps.
I recognize that moving on is a good thing, an inevitable step. I should want to move to the city. I should want to start a job that pays me next to nothing but allows me to read and write as much as I want. At the same time, I should also recognize the value of slowing down. All these opportunities will still be there for me come May, but Brown won’t. Perhaps this is what scares me the most. By looking forward, I’m ignoring the fear that my present has a looming termination date. I will have to say goodbye to people I’ve known and grown up with over four exciting (sometimes terrifying) years. I will have to leave academia and the academic freedom that comes with a Brown education. I know that these fears are not unique to me, and that these are formative and necessary fears. I know this, but I do not have to like it.
I walked behind a tour group yesterday on my way to an afternoon seminar. The tour group was small, filled with high school seniors and their eager parents taking notes on Brown’s open curriculum and absorbing the campus with wide, appreciative eyes. The air hinted at autumn, the wind, brisker than summer’s tepid breeze, smelled of damp dirt and dying leaves. Students were lounging around the Main Green, discussing shopping period while inhaling Blue Room iced coffee. It was a quintessential Brown image, and for a moment I tried to imagine that I was a member of the tour group, seeing Brown for the first time. I felt for a brief second that wonder that comes from romanticizing an intellectual haven. I recalled the optimistic anticipation of imagining nights spent in old libraries discussing classic literature and days spent enjoying the temperamental New England weather on a 250-year-old campus. It’s so easy to forget how beautiful Brown is, how lucky we are.
This weekend I made a list: 20 things to do before graduation. It’s my own sort of bucket list filled with atypical tasks that carry varying significance to me. I want to watch the sunset from Prospect Terrace Park, travel to Newport in the winter to walk the freezing beach, ice skate in Kennedy Plaza, and walk through Swan Point Cemetery. While these tasks probably won’t recreate that sense of newness my sister is experiencing, they are tasks that will take me out of my usual routine and perhaps show me something new about the surrounding Rhode Island area. I don’t want to speed past this last year of college intent only on getting a job and making it in the city. I don’t want to see my schoolwork as a necessary roadblock that I simply have to surpass. I want to experience, for perhaps the last time, that feeling of walking to class through a fresh pile of fallen leaves, my backpack full of unused pencils and a notebook filled with notes from a class discussion about a life changing book. I want to experience rainy Providence Sundays writing papers and catching up with friends over coffee. I love learning. I love Brown. And I’m so lucky to have one more year here.