New Year’s is around the corner and, you’ve guessed it: that makes it that special time of year to be oddly reflective and introspective. Around the world, people are opening a journal for the first time, or reminiscing through iPhone photographs longingly, quickly swiping past the highly unflattering Snapchat screenshots that don’t fit into their nostalgic mental montage.
As much as I’d like to be, I am not an exception to this romanticized “New Year’s Mindset”. When I start to reminisce, however, I tend to get stuck on the numbers. It’s quite strange to me that a year isn’t so long anymore. When I was five, one year composed of 20% of my whole experience on earth. Now, one year is merely 5% of my 18 years of life. As I grow older, years shrink and begin to feel so minuscule, so insignificant. But this year, my 18th year on earth, felt strangely long. It was a year of transitioning, a year of change – a year that sticks out from the rest.
Most college applications were due on the 1st, which meant, of course, that I spent last New Year’s Eve finishing college essays literally the day before they were due. At least 16 breakdowns later, I finally submitted all of my applications. Unlike what I expected, relief did not wash over me on New Year’s Day. I did not feel accomplished or calm. Throughout January and February, I had this awful pit in my stomach – this intense longing to just hear back from my schools and for my future to be set in stone.
I wish I could go back and tell myself to calm down, that it all works out, and that everyone ends up where they’re supposed to be. I wish I had more faith in the college process, but more importantly, I wish I had more faith in myself. And that is a lesson that does not lose meaning with the end of 2016.
Over spring break, my family went to South Africa for my cousin’s bat mitzvah. I was excited to go back to my father’s home, and especially excited to see my family there. Unfortunately, college was keeping me on edge. I got weirdly emotional and sensitive about the most irrelevant things, and had a hard time fully enjoying my trip when I constantly felt like there was something I should be doing for my college applications, even though they were completely out of my control.
On the 18th, everything changed, though I didn’t expect it to at all. I knew I would be hearing back from Hopkins on that day, but I didn’t really think anything of it. Hopkins was a reach school for me, and I truly had no expectation of getting in. I was at a huge family Shabbat dinner when I left the room to check my application status. I had not told anyone except my sister and mom that I would be hearing back that day, and even prefaced it with “I can’t wait for my first rejection!”. Thus, when I came back into the room crying after checking my application, my mom came over to comfort me. Instead, I showed her the screen on my phone which read “Welcome to Hopkins!”, and whispered, half-laughing half-crying, “Mom, this can’t be right, I think they screwed up.”
After logging out and back in at least 4 times, I finally decided that it wasn’t a mistake – I really got in. And then I cried harder (joyfully, of course) and finally got that wave of relief that I so desperately craved. My family celebrated, and I beamed all the way back to America.
Senioritis is so real. Once you know that you will in fact be going to college and will not be living in your parent’s basement next year, it’s super easy to slack off of the remainder of senior year. The one thing stopping me from becoming a total lazy blob was the fact that the end of senior year has a ton of exciting events.
College t-shirt day, prom, and graduation all summed up my senior year, and all emulated the same theme. Clad in college spirit wear, long fancy dresses, or graduation caps stifling our freshly-styled hair – we played dress-up like when we were younger, pretending to be ready for the world ahead of us. We had nostalgia for the future, as we looked at it dreamily with wistful eyes.
The summer went by slowly after the rush of senior year died down. I was lucky enough to still have some friends home to spend my days with, but we were all anxious to begin college. We knew it was coming, but we didn’t know quite what to expect.
In August, after far too many trips to Bed Bath and Beyond and Target and far too much fuss over comforters, I finally was ready (in a material sense, I suppose). I constantly worried about what college would be like, who I would meet, and embarrassingly, what I would wear on the first day (for future anxiety-ridden students: you’re literally moving in. Wear athletic clothes and call it a day).
August 26th was move-in day, and it went surprisingly smoothly. I set up my room just how I liked it, met tons of new people, and began orientation. And just like that, after all the worry and stress that had consumed my life for most of the past year, I was there. I was at college. And it felt so normal, like I had been there forever, like all of my anticipation and fear never actually existed, but had just been a recurring dream. Something that was supposed to be this huge climax in my life, this major defining milestone, was really just, well, normal.
One semester of college: completed. With the knowledge of 5 classes, with new friends, and with lots of stories, I am finally home for winter break. Without much occupying my time at home, I’ve been given plenty of time to think. It’s truly crazy how much has physically changed in 2016, yet one thing has utterly stayed the same; I started out the year completely uncertain of my future, and I ended it looking towards a new future, yet equally uncertain.
I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’m definitely not going to stop eating chocolate at midnight no matter how many times I promise myself that I won’t, and you really couldn’t pay me enough money to quit drinking coffee. After reflecting on my year in that oh-so-nostalgic way, however, I do believe there is one resolution that I would like to make this year, and I hope you, dear reader, can make it too:
Remember to cherish the present – never let yourself believe that your future is bigger than you are.