I was tired from a night filled with difficult goodbyes, as well as waves of thank yous when the fear arrived. In a myriad of laughs, I found myself reluctant to accept that my departure would initiate the next phase of my trials in college.
How could I leave so soon?
The summer months dissipated into a handful of memories of my hometown. The small roads I would bike, the way the lake glistened at dawn, the connections I rebuilt with my friends, the games we played, the stocks of thin, vein-like branches that kept our bonfires burning, the naps, the smile on my cousin’s face when I walked through the door, the money I earned, the heartfelt and problematic conversations with my siblings, the hugs, the language I heard that reassured me I was where I was supposed to be, the unexpected rains– all these things and more constituted a needed break from my life in Claremont.
Hours before I arrived at the airport the following day, I viewed the world swirling past me through the car window become a slow and peaceful darkness. My emotions calmed. When I slept, I dreamed of nothing. The last thought I remember prior to my nap seemed to be my own voice: You’re going to be okay.
When I arrived on campus, I knew that work would begin immediately. The time cards were set, the expectations drawn. I came to train as one of the many mentors for the first years, energized. However, in the moments I paused to take everything in again, I questioned why I really wanted to be a part of my college community. I did not want the answers to be the same. I stopped the cyclical conversations in my head that only expedited the vague and overused conclusion: I want to help people.
No. I want to do more.
Over the course of my first year I learned what I liked and what I disliked. I embraced the difficult learning curves, the poor time management– not to mention the lack of self care. All those are vital to becoming a person who can do more. So within my first month here on campus, I have become aware of my limitations by creating a schedule more conducive to my habits. I take naps when I need to and study early. I read better (I read what is most important from texts which reduced my stress levels!). I also have become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. As a mentor, I had to reach out to the incoming first years instead of waiting for them to ask me questions. As a student uninvolved formally, for the most part, I had to walk myself over to club meetings, even when I felt tempted to stay on Tumblr.
I knew that in order to make this year one that would work most productively in the direction of my goals, I needed to establish more than just friendships but communities in which I could contribute more of my passions.
And so far, it has made me much happier and fulfilled.
Aside from embracing my role as a sponsor (mentor) on campus, I have continued my role as a member of the Pomona Student Union, become a college mentor for a local high senior, signed on as an ESL tutor through our community outreach center, and have recently been hired at the Women’s Union on campus.
The experiences offered here at Pomona, just as those offered at other private institutions, are an immense opportunity. I highly encourage first year students to be unafraid when looking through brochures of Organization X and Y. No matter how unlikely that specific group may seem to be your fit, you may just find yourself making the best relationships with the people who create it. In addition to this, I have found that by becoming more involved on campus, I have grown to accept myself as a true contributor to the campus community. I no longer feel one-dimensional, a robo-student concerned with completing classwork by the end of the week. I feel more confident in taking the agency to shape my story here. Now that I have goals for my involvement in addition to my school work, I can put my academic knowledge into practice. As throughout this past month, I hope to continue working toward the manifestation of my event ideas and the strengthening of my relationships with my friends so that I continue to learn/discover/re-envision the possible road paths for my journey beyond Pomona.
Wish me luck!
P.S. Students will insistently tell you about the “Sophomore Slump”… it may or may not happen. I will continue to push forward through it if I feel it pressing upon me, though, because ain’t nobody got time fo dat.