Reality is a harsh blow, particularly when it sweeps forth with the tempestuous might of fallen expectations, ones set so tragically high, they were bound to be ground to the earth as soon as they were conceived.
But how are we not to have lofty expectations for the years ahead after the whirlwind of fun and novelty that characterised our first year of college? It was a superlative year, the year that changed me for the better, that taught me innumerable lessons (many of which had nothing to do with university whatsoever, contrary to the very intention of college itself). First year is comprised of frequent good times, daily forging of new experiences and friends, and an abiding sense of awe at the great, overarching fact that you’ve made it to college, finally, and freedom abounds like never before.
First year is unparalleled.
So the reality of routine, of stability and familiarity, can be perceived in two ways. On the one hand, it is a welcome blessing. On the other, it is a let down in the wake of unremitting excitement, revelation, and discovery.
If you are like me, you crave such things. The unpredictability of first year meant each day held innumerable, beautiful possibilities, and I arose with a great eagerness every morning.
Above all else, it was the potential such opportunities held that made these days feel like a precious treasure. I could reinvent my life in any number of ways, so I squeezed every last drop out of every given circumstance to build my future here in the manner I desired.
I think back now to the very specific sensations I felt in my initial weeks — and even months — at Trinity: the wonder of walking down Grafton St, the elation of my newfound independence, my enthusiasm for the unanimously accepted habit of drinking copious pints night after night, simply justified by my first-year status. I devoured in each day with the fervour of a recently liberated prisoner. The world was my damn oyster.
Now that the foundation has been constructed, the walls around me hammered together tightly, an air of that initial awe and anticipation has left. I’ve seen that one street performer who juggles knives at the top of Grafton St too many times to count. I’ve swigged pints at the same places so frequently they’ve become old haunts, and I’ve attended enough lectures to know how many of them are not really worth attending at all. I’ve delved deep enough into this state of independence to find it less of an exhilarating release and more of a frightening reality of impending full-fledged adulthood. Moving out of Halls and into an apartment on a dodgy street, starting a job, practically being able to traverse the city centre with my eyes closed, and coming to grips with a more sedate and mature existence here are all part of the settling we do when we go beyond the action and drama of first year.
I won’t lie, it was disappointing.
Certainly, the dependability of established friendships is a welcome relief, and the know-how in checking out library books and getting around campus alleviates a bit of unneeded stress. We are well aware of student meal deals and the best coffee within a kilometre radius of the school. We walk around with an air of confidence and assuredness reserved for those who have experienced this place thoroughly, for better and worse.
Moving out of Halls and into an apartment on a dodgy street, starting a job and practically being able to traverse the city centre with my eyes closed are all part of the settling we do when we go beyond the action and drama of first year
But I don’t want to be so assured in everything at Trinity. In my first weeks back, I noticed a sort of subduing, a contentedness in the familiar, that pervaded my circle of friends and our attitudes toward what once thrilled us. We said we’d continue to make new acquaintances, to try new things, to push ourselves like we did last year, but we’re pushing ourselves in different and more strenuous ways now. We’re living alone, fending for ourselves without the pity and warm welcomes reserved for first years. We’re realising that, really truly, this is the grind of our lives. Of reality. And it will not always be pints and parties and easily excusable mistakes.
The independence we are afforded in college is more than just a ticket to stay out late and experiment with all the things our parents always told us to stay away from. It is a responsibility, to take care of both ourselves and those who’ve chosen to stick by our sides after the flurry of first year has ended. The mistakes we made last year, we can’t make them again without a slap on the wrist. We know better, and the expectations grow up with us.
First year is comprised of frequent good times, daily forging of new experiences and friends, and an abiding sense of awe at the great, overarching fact that you’ve made it to college
Novelty changes forms, and it will not always be the sort of novelty that thrills and delights like that of my first year here. It will be disappointing, and eye-opening, and heartbreaking, but also reassuring, comforting, and character-building. The thing is, we can still make that extra effort like we did as freshers to meet new friends through engagement in different societies and college events. We can still choose to wake up every morning with eagerness for the day ahead, it will just be more of a conscious effort to seek out the kind of possibility we so easily found when everything around us was new. And that’s okay.
We’ll just learn to straddle the line between what is familiar, the foundations we have already built, and all of that which we have yet to learn and discover.
After all, we can never be too assured of anything.