105 days ago, I sat on my high school’s football field and watched as the first of my peers’ names were announced to receive their diplomas. Not long thereafter, my name was called.
101 days ago, I started my first job, as a data analyst intern at an engineering company.
33 days ago, I walked out of my house, with a car filled with clothing and toiletries waiting in the driveway.
33 days ago, I said goodbye to my parents and little brother, and I headed back to my dorm, alone.
33 days ago, I began the next chapter of my life.
The time between high school graduation and college move-in is a time of endings and beginnings; the first time you’re free from the public school system, the last time someone else sets your day-to-day schedule. The first time that you truly set your course for life, the last time your parents do. While these firsts and lasts almost always lead to more freedom, they also lead to more responsibility.
And having these newfound freedoms and responsibilities is strange. It’s strange to have full freedom over where I was going to go or what I was going to cook for lunch at work. It’s strange to work 40-hour work weeks in an office and feel, for the first time, like an adult.
More than all, it’s strange, now here at college, to be alone.
No, I don’t mean lonely or without friends—the speed at which I (and everyone else) made friends once on campus is remarkable—I mean to be completely separated from my family. In the eighteen years of my life prior to move-in day, the longest I was away from my parents and brother was probably a week or so. It’s strange to be without that guiding force that has seemingly been omnipresent for as long as I can remember.
Obviously, I’ve known it was coming and prepared myself as much as I could, but there’s no way to know what that crushing weight of freedom, that soaring elation of responsibility, actually feels like until my family was a hundred miles away. It’s strange to be without the two pillars that have supported me every step of the way, the two guides that have been two steps behind on every step of the journey.
The only reasonable response, as David Bowie put it in 1972’s Changes, is to Turn and Face the Strange. Face it head-on. Triumph over it. Confront each anxiety until life is comfortable once again.
Time has seemed to slow to half its normal pace over the past month here on campus, as often happens when one is figuring out a new routine, but I’ve loved and enjoyed every second (or is it a half-second?). To be taking college-level physics and mathematics courses (my intended majors) is just as enlightening and frankly, awe-inspiring as I imagined. Yes, there’s been a lot of work to go along with all my courses, but regaining that work ethic that was so very elusive senior year of high school makes it completely worth it.
I truly cannot put into words how impressed I’ve been with the campus, the professors, the faculty, and my classmates. Professor Brown, who teaches my Multivariable Calculus course, is definitely one of the best math communicators I’ve ever seen. The ease with which he explains the concepts of n-dimensional functions and calculus operations is phenomenal. I never imagined that I could grasp partial derivatives, Latin noun declensions, the kinematics of air resistance, or Khrushchev’s role in the Cold War so quickly, but the professors and TAs have made it so easy.
My first month at Hopkins has been everything I wanted it to be and much, much more. And luckily for me, there are another thirty-five of them waiting on the horizon, each presumably filled with as much fun and fulfillment as this first one.