From Finger Paints to the Federalist Papers

Brittany Messenger

When I used to think of myself in college, I would envision this mature girl dressed in classy casual wear strolling around a gorgeous campus with books in hand, having deep conversations over cups of tea with a few of my close friends, and attending several crazy, Animal House-style frat parties a night. I expected to outgrow that awkward giggle thing I do when I get nervous and definitely stop getting overly excited every time Harry Potter is mentioned. I was ready to become a mature woman, comfortable in her new world and completely in control. I was so sure that out of nowhere, I would be old. I could not have been more wrong.

While walking into one of the crowded, sweaty Animal House parties that I always dreamed I would rock, I felt more awkward and out of place than an unattractive person would feel here at Colgate (seriously, why is everyone on this campus so gorgeous?). I knew absolutely no one other than the six girls I arrived with and was pretty sure that the fact that I already lost my North Face already was a rather bad omen for the rest of my night. After getting myself psyched for so long for the absolute insanity that I expected to define my college experience, I never felt more overwhelmed.

While climbing up the steps in search of the bathroom, my eyes grew wide as I realized that my friends were all M.I.A. and the room that I had to pass through was packed with a clan we first-year females fear above all else (no, not older guys offering us cups of their “special” punch): upperclassmen girls. As they stood there with friends that they’ve known for more than three days, looking all knowledgeable and unsympathetic, I was feeling rather intimidated and ready to turn back. My bladder, however, urged me on.

Due to the fact that I completely lack any sort of luck or grace, I managed to stumble right into a girl who I assumed to be the leader of this pack of elders. “Oh my god! Why is everyone here like five years old?” she spit out in my direction as I stammered, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” and fled the scene.

While I definitely was not expecting her to pat me on the back and direct me towards the nearest lavatory after committing such an obvious party foul, I was surprised with her comment. Five years old? Because I’m six feet tall and typically tower over a majority of other females, this comment made me feel quite taken aback. I imagined that becoming a college freshman would be my gateway into maturity and yet there I was, being treated as if I was as inexperienced as a kindergartener.

Although I did find it rather strange at first, it seems to me that maybe that older girl was right; maybe I am five years old again.

As I was climbing onto the bus thirteen years ago to head off to my first day of kindergarten in my little flowered dress, my mom cried as she reminded me to listen to my teachers and try to make friends. My dad waved good-bye and informed that boys have cooties and therefore should be avoided at all costs. Last week, I experienced d?ej? vu as my mom advised me once again to listen to my professors and try to make friends. My dad once again warned me to continue keeping away from boys, but this time it was due to the fact that they have roofies, not cooties.

Like kindergarten, college is a completely new experience filled with many new faces, totally new experiences and lots of naptime. School is especially similar to our younger days in that it is extremely overwhelming. While the hours and hours of work that are now required of us are obviously much more difficult than finger-painting and reading Go, Dog, Go, I cannot help but feel as if I’m a little lost kindergartener again. Just as I was completely baffled by the fact that the word “monkey” needs a letter y on the end of it, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated trying to comprehend the lofty vocabulary used in the Federalist Papers and the works of Kant. I cannot recall the last time that so much work was required of me and the weight of it all is making me want my Mommy more and more.

The greatest parallel between school now and school thirteen years ago is the serious handholding that occurred during the first few days of orientation. A little bit scared by the lack of control I had over my hourly life, I clung to my Link leader for advice, support and direction just as a little five-year old would to her teacher. I had absolutely no idea where I was heading half the time, but Ally always managed to keep us moving (in a single file life, of course) and provide us with constant encouragement.

The most wonderful part about the whole orientation process is that just like kindergarten, on numerous occasions, I went from barely knowing a person one moment to becoming their best friend in the next simply because we both enjoy playing Barbie hair salon or beirut. Half the time, I’ll be in the middle of a long discussion, when I realize, “Wow, I have absolutely no idea what her name is or where she is from.” It seems as if everywhere I have been so far throughout this past week of my college experience, I’ve simply stuck close to the person who seemed the friendliest and while it is rather different than what I am used to, it’s been an amazing time.

Although it seemed rather odd at first, the beginning of college may actually be more like kindergarten than I ever expected. While my greatest challenge is no longer learning to tie my shoes and my bedtime is definitely later than 7:30, the essence of this entirely new world made me realize that maybe I really am five years old again.