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December 11, 2017

High school memories lead to college realizations

 Chelsey Powell/Daily Collegian

Chelsey Powell/Daily Collegian

 

I spent four years in high school and I know most people have done the same. You remember it, don’t you? You had to wake up at 6:15 a.m., throw on your clothes, stuff some cereal into your mouth, run a brush through your hair and jump through the front door to catch the bus. I made it through all of that and finally graduated. Now, I am a freshman in my second semester of college.

Last summer, people kept telling me how different college would be from high school. I was going to meet new people, live three and a half hours away from home and have a lot more work to do, all while learning how to manage my own time. I was pretty excited, because high school was not something I had particularly enjoyed.

When I came home for winter break, I decided that I would go back to high school to see what it was like to be there after spending a semester in college. The administrations of two high schools – the one I graduated from, in my hometown of Glen Rock, N.J., and one in nearby Wayne, N.J. – gave me permission to visit.

I went back to my old journalism class, the one class I loved more than the others. I am currently a journalism major and I thought it would be a great idea to compare my college journalism classes to the one I took in high school. I walked into the class, feeling very proud to have a visitor’s pass that allowed me to leave when I wanted to, and I immediately felt old. It had only been a couple of months since I had been there, but it felt like an eternity. My old teacher had me pitch story ideas to his students and then my brother took me into the hallways to say hello to some of my other former teachers and coaches.

Lockers lined the hallways and teachers sat stationed at every corner to make sure kids were not trying to cut class. I felt trapped. I did not stay very long after that. I said my goodbyes and hurriedly walked home.

My friend’s high school was not so different from mine. The kids were the same and the rules were the same. The classes were boring, lunchtime was too short and people had to ask to go to bathroom. The hallways smelled like cheap perfume and everyone looked tired, even though it was Friday. At first, everything felt the same.

I was so sure that college was better than this and I could not wait until the last bell so I could go home, until it finally hit me. The students here had a core group of close friends. They knew almost exactly what their day would bring and whom they’d see. Growing up was far ahead in the distance, a time almost too small to see.

In that moment, I felt nostalgic and alone, feelings I thought would never surface in reference to my high school years. Something in me made me want to pretend that I was a senior again and sign up for classes then and there. I missed the security that high school provided. You don’t have to worry about jobs or your honors thesis or who is going to want to eat dinner with you that night.

Sometimes, while just sitting in my dorm room, I felt so lonely that I was not quite sure what to do or if I even wanted to stick it out and see if school was worth the extensive amounts of time and money that had gone into it. Sometimes college gets dark. It can feel like there’s no one to talk to, no one who truly knows you.

I thought about it for a while, but then I remembered why I went back to high school in the first place: to see how much I had truly grown over the course of only a few months. It was more growing than I had done throughout my years in high school. College took a toll on my life. I understand now that three weeks is not an eternity and that some people cannot just make friends at the snap of their fingers. You have to live with people you might not like at all and you have to just deal with it.

But that’s what leaving the nest is all about, and I pushed myself to realize it. Eventually, once I gave it time, I found people to eat with. I was able to do my work and do it well and after wanting to go home so badly, I see now that winter break gets boring after a while.

The light will come. Now is the time to find out who I am.

So, I plan to make the most of my four years (or more) in college because I’ll never get this opportunity again. It might take a while, but college is the time to let go, to work, to be yourself – and that is more opportunity than some people get in a lifetime.

Marleigh Felsenstein is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at mfelsenstein@umass.edu.

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