The Internet is full of memes–lists, gifs, videos, and other things that often go viral–and that’s been the case since, well, since the Internet was invented. A couple of weeks ago while cleaning out some old files, I found a few things and decided to spend a few weeks talking about memes that I first encountered in 1995.
This time around, it’s instant sentimentality and nostalgia for a few weeks gone by with “Going to College is Easier Than It Looks”
Your first semester of college is more thank likely one of the strangest three months of your life. After all, if you’re like me, you go from living with mom and dad and having your own room to being shoved into what was once a one-bedroom apartment with four other guys who all have their own eating, sleeping, hygienic, and recreational drug habits. Plus, unless you have a carry-over from high school to college (like friends or a girlfriend who came with you), you’re more or less figuring out both the social and academic landscape by yourself. This is why those months–heck, the first few weeks–of college seem much longer than they actually are.
There was a point in mid-October where we were about a week away from my fall break and I had some sort of “you’ve changed” fight with my girlfriend. Had I? I’d been gone for all of five weeks and it’s not like I had dropped off the face of the earth for five years. But at the same time, as I calculated the amount of stuff that had happened in those five weeks, I thought maybe I had. A forward that landed in my inbox around the same time confirmed this. Unlike the roommate lists, finals funnies, and other stupid crap we’d been passing around, this was especially popular among the girls and “romantic sensitive” doofuses like myself.
For years, the author of this particular piece was unknown. But in digging around on the internet for it, I found a version attributed to Ashley Wilson of Carnegie Mellon University. I don’t know how true that is, but it may have been a newspaper column or essay that got picked up and sent around, her name being dropped at one point or another along the way.
“Going to College is Easier Than it Looks”
By Ashley Wilson
Carnegie Mellon University
You know, college can be a really scary thing. It seems like no matter how much you prepare yourself to leave all of the people you love, it always comes back and slaps you in the face later. It’s really scary when you’re sitting in your dorm room one night, listening to The Eagles “Sad Cafe,” and thinking, wow, these lyrics really are powerful:
“Maybe the time has gone, the faces, I recall. But things in this life change very slowly, if they ever change at all . . .”
The scary part being that we’ve all been hit with change lately, and it doesn’t seem to have come slowly at all. Do you remember the day you left home? I’m sure that you do. But I’ll bet that what you remember even more clearly, were the days in the week before you left, you know, the days you spent getting addresses and phone numbers and trying to figure out how to say goodbye to everyone you’d loved for as long as you could remember. Do you remember standing by your best friend’s car one night, after midnight, trying to sum up the meaning of a friendship you’d managed to maintain through thick and thin for four years? Do you remember how hard that was, to think of how to say goodbye to that person? It was nearly impossible, wasn’t it, to give them one last hug and turn around and walk inside. I’ll bet part of what you remember was the night before you left, kissing your boyfriend or girlfriend goodbye one last time, just knowing that you’d have to turn around and walk back inside was almost motivation enough not to leave. Stepping back to take one last look at that person you love — it’s really scary. And you go, and you promise yourself that you won’t find anyone new. You won’t ever replace your old friends. You’ll never fall in love again. It’s really crazy, what kinds of things can happen when you don’t mean for them to. You get to a new place full of strangers. You meet people who forget you. You forget people you meet. But sometimes, you come across some extraordinarily special people. They have tears to shed, too. They left people behind. They’re in love with that girl or that guy back where they used to live, and they all want someone to talk to. So you talk. Talk is good. You form bonds you never thought you’d form. You call your old friends and tell them about the new ones. Sometimes, they don’t understand. Sometimes, you hurt their feelings. Sometimes everyone is just a little bit jealous. You miss your boyfriend. Or your girlfriend. One day you’re sitting in a park, thinking about all that stuff you really didn’t want to leave, and a stranger sits down near you. Sometimes that person stays a stranger. Other times, you talk to him. Or you talk to her. Sometimes you experience things you didn’t want to ever happen. Sometimes you’re interested in that person who isn’t your boyfriend back home. Or your girlfriend. Sometimes college is really complicated. Sometimes you stay together. Other times, you break up. Sometimes you think you’ve done the wrong thing, by coming so far away from home. And sometimes, when you start thinking like this, it’s time to make a change. So when this happens, you sit down, put The Eagles in the stereo, turn on “Sad Cafe,” and wonder if you still recall all the faces from your past. If you do, you’re doing well. So you pick up the phone, and you call them all, just to say “Hi, I love you, I’m thinking about you.” And then as an afterthought, you say “You know, I’m really learning a lot from college. I wish you’d come here to visit all of my friends. They’re very important, and I think they’d love you. You’d love them.”
Because after all, this is college. College is a growing experience. Growing experiences cause change. Change is hard. But it makes you stronger.
Call your Mom. Call your best friend. Call your boyfriend. Or your girlfriend. Or your ex, if that’s how it worked out. Tell them hello. Tell them you miss them, that you love them.
And then, turn off the stereo. Leave your dorm room. Go to a friend’s room, give them a big hug, and say “Thank you so much for being here. I love you.”
I promise, you’ll feel better.
Reading it again, nearly 20 years later, I have to wonder if I was ever really was this sentimental about things. I’m sure I was–there’s an earnestness that you have when you are 18 that eventually erodes as you grow into adulthood, one that I’ve definitely lost since then but that I can perhaps appreciate on some level. You know, even though it was a little ridiculous to get this nostalgic over a mere five weeks of college.