After I woke up from my week-long nap over break, my sister approached me with a very legitimate concern. Note that by “approach,” I mean ripped into me during a dinner with my parents and boyfriend in attendance. She went on a long rant about how much I’ve changed and how bad that change is. Pictures of me dressed up for Rocky Horror Picture Show, stories of my experiences with jungle juice and a new nose piercing were all used as evidence to support her thesis which basically boiled down to “You changed and it’s wrong.”
Granted, her delivery was comical enough, but the message stung. Honestly, what did she expect? I had been away at school, dealing with new circumstances, friends and situations. She couldn’t possibly believe that I would go off to college and come back exactly the same person I was before I left.
As frustrating as her comments were, they have me thinking about newness, change and how I cope with these things. There is no doubt about this. Whether you are one to fully embrace it or lovingly pretend it doesn’t exist, any substantial change is inevitably taxing.
For me, an unfortunate creature of habit, this second semester has already caused enough havoc. And we’ve only been studying for a few days. Having to let go of my first semester classes, classes with people I knew, professors I liked and topics I loved, was painful. And, while I dealt with that change over winter break, I don’t think I was mentally prepared for a second semester. New dorm, new schedule, new people. I’m all for forcing myself to try new things, and honestly I usually end up enjoying them. However, all this new so quickly was not what I would consider a good time.
Like any decent introspectionist, I had been closely watching what I did during first semester and my attempts to cope with college. What’s even more interesting is that I feel myself going through a very similar process again during second semester changes. That is what I am offering to you today: the various phases of my coping abilities. And now, without further ado, Abby’s Cognition and Cranium proudly presents “Attempting to Deal Despite Really Not Wanting To: A Memoir.”
Phase 1: F.T.F.O. This phase includes, but is not limited to, a ceaseless barrage of “What if…” situations, lots of lists, and constant stress-dreams. This all happens behind the elegant mask of “Yeah man no it’s totally chill I love change.”
Phase 2: Overly giddy. An overcompensation to cover up Phase 1. This phase includes me being very loud, friendly and outgoing. However, it’s exhausting and quickly leads to Phase 3.
Phase 3: Withdrawn. It’s a lot like death only I’m still going to class. This phase mainly consists of me not eating or sleeping and getting easily distracted. Complete with a constant dramatic far-off gaze into the distance.
Phase 4: Reluctant acceptance. When I eventually get tired of being mopey, I come to accept that life is the way it is, and there’s nothing left to do about it except come to terms with the change.
I don’t think my process of coping is especially unique. While we are all special snowflakes, most of us go through a series of phases to eventually get to accepting our new reality. But one of the biggest parts of finally coming to terms with the change that is often forgotten is the way that acceptance can change us.
Of course, we don’t necessarily see it, but, as my sister pointed out, the change is there. Submerged in newness ranging from routines, ideas, people and experiences, our understanding of the world expands. And while we certainly don’t have to agree with every new perspective we encounter, the very fact that we must confront it means we are forced to make a choice: to agree, disagree or find a middle ground.
So yes, I have changed exponentially since leaving home and coming to Case Western Reserve University. And maybe the outfit I wore to the Rocky Horror wasn’t quite what my sister thought I should be parading around campus in. But it is vital that when we measure our change, we do so by looking at both the positive and negative ways we move forward. The form change takes is a direct byproduct of our coping process, and, in processing, we are bound to grow.
Abby Armato is a first-year student currently majoring in English and anthropology. When she is not freaking out about impending adulthood, she enjoys various strokes of creativity, determination and passion.