Your First Year Will Not be Sunshine and Bubbles
Walking down Middle Path, I was staring quite fixedly upon the details of the gravel beneath my feet. How the stones were all slightly different shapes. The lumpy puddles between mud and footprints. The fallen, dead leaves. It was the type of walk that requires no thought. My only instinct was a flight towards my room and away from South Campus. Away from classrooms, professors, peers, Peirce Dining Hall, the benches lining the path … away from all of that. I didn’t want to make eye contact, so I looked down. But, as you’ll often find here, there is simply no escaping the people who care about you. Someone stopped me, looked at me with simple concern, and stated quite frankly: “You look sad.”
My friend Karen Salas and I on our way down to the stone Kenyon sign, one of the adventures that helped me feel more at home here.
My initial response was disgust, anger. I do not look sad! I thought, defiantly.
But they saw what was etched in my face better than I ever could. Yes, I was sad. It was my first year of college. I was thousands of miles away from my home and my friends. I was one of the only women of color in my classes. I came from a middle-class background and found myself in the midst of students who could afford things I’d never dreamed of. I had about three friends and I was terrified of entering the dining hall without them. I wasn’t too keen on my roommate. I felt drowned in classwork. I thought every stranger was secretly laughing at me. At the end of the day, I felt isolated.
This isn’t the part where I tell you how someone said something that changed my life. How a stranger dropped a piece of wisdom upon me, or my mother, her voice crackling through the telephone, advised me in the most inspiring way possible.
None of that happened.
I went to class the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.
I realized that my adjustment to college would include a period of sadness. Acknowledging that sadness and facing my discomfort helped me understand that I was entering a new part of my life. A part of my life that required completely different traits than before. I had to be confident, courageous, and assured in strange, new ways.
Through the development of those traits, I slowly found my way into Kenyon.
It started with little things, like speaking in class more often or even just smiling at my classmates when we weren’t actually in class. Then, I took bigger steps, like attending concerts or lectures on unfamiliar topics with my friends, or just sitting in Peirce alone and being okay with that. I found a strength in small achievements, and a strength in recognizing my own ability to grow.
My feet on a patch of grass next to Middle Path during my first year. Those bright little flowers were a sign of good things to come.
The beauty of the process—from feeble first-year Meera to adjusted and content third-year Meera—is what always shocks me. As you move forward on your journey, there will always be bumps and obstacles. There will always be that time when you walked home in dejected silence, only to be confronted by a concerned friend. In the end, however, there will be moments of strength. Take solace in those, and don’t forget to keep looking for them.