There are no neat conclusions to draw from a year at Penn. But if I had to assign a label to my freshman year, it would be “sinusoidal.” The past eight months have been a sequence of peaks and troughs, memories and mishaps. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Reflecting on the past year means appointing “Friends” episode titles to our days. The one where we trailed the tunnels beneath the Quad, swapping life philosophies.The one with the Sprite bottle that exploded across Harrison College House. The one where we sang, we spun, we got That Look from That Person, but we kept it up anyway. The ones when we didn’t give a damn, and then when we cared so much it hurt. The one with the banana.
There are the hosts of stories we wish we made: Friends we didn’t catch up with, clubs we didn’t join or that lunch we forgot to schedule. That GroupMe we all muted. The BYO we never planned. There’s an anxiety that we can’t try anything new once we’re out of freshman year — club positions will be dictated, spots will be filled, “It’ll be too late.” At the risk of sounding preachy, though, we can’t cheat ourselves out of experiences. Save for those who are graduating (sorry, I can’t help you out there), it’s not too late to delve into another aspect of Penn. College is too short to live constrained.
What I don’t want to lose is the possibility we felt when we came to Penn. I miss the energetic faces we wore during New Student Orientation as we tried to paint ourselves into different situations. We applied here with a purpose, neatly packaged into 500 words and sieved through the Common App. And for me, at least, it’s been easy to lose sight of that. There have been months where my main focus didn’t extend beyond waking up and cranking out my assignments. There have been days where all I did was flounder. And there have been moments where the sheer fact that I was at Penn wasn’t enough for me. Some point over the course of this past year, I stopped feeling indebted to the University for admitting me. The gratitude I felt in being able to walk down Locust chipped away.
Part of the Penn experience consists of feeling out of place here, of Googling transfer applications and then closing the tab out of guilt. There’s a lot about Penn that makes me question the bubbly descriptors I used in my “Why Penn?” essay. I’m still searching for the “overarching creative spirit” and “balance” I imagined when I was 17 years old. This is not anything close to a perfect school. But that doesn’t stop me from loving the experience.
Sun-soaked and powder-slicked after our first Holi, I grabbed two of my best friends’ hands and ran to Penn Park, our shoes spilling tufts of color onto the sidewalk. We wheezed our way over the bridge, past tennis courts and up stairs until we found a nook where we could see the Schuylkill River. We stood. And stared. And just talked — about life, about Penn. About the reasons we were here. About how young we still were.
I felt this incredible, irreverent joy in knowing we had time left here. Penn isn’t a launchpad for future goals; it’s an adventure in itself. That’s a very freshman attitude to take, and I understand that now. I’m aware of how naive I sound. But we don’t have to surrender this sentiment. There’s no rule that mandates our disenchantment with this place, that stops Penn from being Penn. The University can disappoint us, gnaw at us, anger us and color our perspectives. I’d argue that everyone here has felt moments of happiness, though, and that most of those are associated with Firsts — the first weeks we spent on campus. The first Fling. The first nights of NSO.
The first year.
We might be done with freshman year. We might have run out of our Penn firsts. But repeating experiences doesn’t necessarily cheapen them — in some cases, it might make them better. I intend to return to campus in full, rose-colored glasses, still clinging to the freshman high.
Not for the first time. But not — hopefully, wonderfully — for the last.
DANI BLUM is a College freshman from Ridgefield, Conn. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “The Danalyst” appears every Thursday.Comments powered by Disqus
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