I took my last final yesterday. It was weird, walking out of the classroom, textbooks still filling my bag, to think that the semester was officially over. I packed up the rest of my belongings, indiscriminately shoving books and tablets and the errant sock found behind my bed into my backpack. Two weeks of final exam preparation had left me tired and a bit delirious, and I was functioning on autopilot. I turned in my key and closed the door to my AMR I double for the last time, saying goodbye to my Hopkins home and to my freshman year.
I have a lot of thoughts about my first year here at Hopkins. The nine months that I’ve spent on Homewood campus are inextricably a part of who I am now, and, as I sit in a hotel room at the beach and type this post, I can still close my eyes and convince myself that I’m seated, not on a couch, but at my former desk. I’m grateful for the loud hum of the hotel air conditioning; after months of slamming doors and feet running down the hall and keys clicking in locks, I’m not ready for complete silence just yet. I don’t think I’m far enough removed from freshman year yet to be able to process it fully, and I know that as I continue to blog throughout the summer I will be able to articulate my thoughts much more eloquently and completely than I can now, still recovering from my post-finals haze.
I can say a few things with certainty though. First, I’m happy – and relieved – to be free of final exams and papers, and my circadian rhythm thanks me for last night’s sleep, a full nine hours worth. Second, I’m not sure that I’m ready for freshman year to be really, really over.
I think I’ve had this selfish idea in my mind that I would leave for school and time would freeze around me – that I would go home for breaks and find my pre-college life preserved, exactly as I had left it, waiting for me. Life doesn’t work like that though; things change and you change and time keeps moving forward. I went home for spring break to find that my favorite restaurant, one that I’d frequented near-weekly for a decade, one where 8-year-old Alexa felt like a grown-up eating a scone and 18-year-old Alexa felt like a kid eating an ice cream cone, had closed. Even now at the beach, I’m surrounded by signs of change; we were hit particularly hard by Hurricane Sandy, and everywhere I look version 2.0 seems just a bit different than I remembered.
I want to be able to freeze time within freshman year too, to be able to wander around the memories that I have of a time when adjusting to a new environment and being a freshman was priority number one: a time when I could picture four years of college stretched out in front of me, full of possibility. I did work that I’m really proud of this year, and I made some decisions that weren’t 100% fantastic this year, and I’ve learned equally from both.
This year, I learned how Hitchcock used symbolism and how to properly use a pipette and how the Pompeian local magistrate was run, but I also learned how to step back and have a good time. I learned how to properly celebrate Halloween with my friends on a Wednesday night, and how to skip Alpha Phi spring formal to finish writing a paper on C-Level of the library. I’ve learned how to be a good student and lab partner, but I’ve also learned how to be a good roommate, sister, and friend. I don’t think I can accept yet that my time at Hopkins is already a quarter past.
I’m heading back to Homewood in another week and a half to learn Organic Chemistry and the art of tanning on the (Hopkins) beach, and I know that my summer, and my next three years of JHU living will be just as filled with fun and stress and late nights and early mornings. For now though, I’m choosing to freeze time as best I can. I’m choosing to focus on the feeling of icy ocean water nipping at my ankles and the comfortable weight of the perfect beach pebble in my hand and the mixture of hot sun and cool wind at my back while I savor this time, with one year successfully completed behind me and another three years still ahead.
For now, I say goodbye freshman year; it’s been great. And to sophomore year: get ready. I’ll see you soon.