It all started last week when I picked up the syllabus to chart out a schedule to study for my chemistry final exam, and realized that I would be done with finals a little before halfway through December. The idea that I would be done with my first semester of freshman year absolutely scares me, and in my state of denial, I cannot comprehend how time has flown so quickly. The past three odd months are jumbled in my memory as a tangled web of stress, laughter and ice cream. When I graduated high school I thought I had done all the growing I could ever do as a person. Then I came to Case Western Reserve University.
I’m sure you’ve been told several times that people are always going to surprise you: well, you will always surprise yourself—in more ways than one. For the past 18 years, I lived constantly surrounded by family and friends in an extremely sheltered environment. I was sure that moving away was going to be difficult, and I was going to be very difficult. I was quite shocked when I didn’t feel homesick because I was pretty sure that I would be. I let my parents convince themselves that I am though.
If you told the 15-year-old me who quit classical dance out of boredom and frustration that I would fall in love with it in college and even join the team, I would have told you that you were out of your mind.
It seems like a long time ago, I was that awkward girl who tried to avoid any form of social contact through the halls of my junior year. Now I’m the person who walks by a karaoke night and decides to jump on stage and belt out Taylor Swift.
College has been absolutely nothing like I expected it to be. I probably wouldn’t have any adjectives to use to describe my time here. I’ve realized that everything I knew about myself for the past 18 years has been completely untrue. I’ve been completely underestimating myself. It’s much easier to choose your flight instinct when you have a mommy and daddy at home waiting to correct all your mistakes, but it took them being in a different timezone for me to realize that I had plenty of fight in me: it just took a bad chemistry test, several all-nighters and a broken heart to realize it. Better late than never, right?
Growing up in a traditional South Indian family, surrounded by other South Indians, I always thought a higher education was a basic requirement. Indians demand at least a graduate degree even for someone they’re looking to hire as an intern. I was extremely confused when people seemed to congratulate me here when I told them I was going to college. Maybe this is what the hype around college is. How unpredictable and unlike your wildest dreams your experience turns out to be. The people who you probably thought were going to be your best friends could be the ones you would rather not be around. That girl in your SAGES class who seemed arrogant, or the boy who seemed boring are probably two of your 2 a.m. buddies. You may go from being someone who couldn’t stay up beyond 10 p.m. to someone who doesn’t feel sleepy till 2 a.m. Perhaps you never like loud parties in high school and felt absolutely alone, until you came to college and realized that you were one of many people who liked hugging stuffed animals and watching movies.
It’s probably not going to be perfect, but if “Inside Out” has taught us anything, it’s that Joy and Sadness make the best memories.
Arundhati Menon is a first-year majoring in computer science and economics.