I think I’m almost ready to admit I’m a senior. Even just logistically, it’s difficult. Like grasping that I’m one of the oldest students here. Or realizing that my tendency to assume that any particularly tall or adult-looking people that I don’t recognize must be seniors doesn’t really work this year. Or making excuses for the things I still don’t know about Colgate. And it’s hard to think about everything with such finality. I’ve had my last first day of school, my last Maroon-News pre-orientation, my last Beta Beach. And those lasts are just going to pile up until it’s all over, it’s all just memories.
But mostly, it’s difficult to admit to being a senior because it’s terrifying. As we all know, Colgate is a bubble. When graduation pops that bubble, we have to face the real world. So every time someone says, “Oh, so you’re a senior, huh?” in that knowing voice, it’s a seriously unwanted reminder that this entire part of my life is rapidly coming to a close.
Probably a big part of the reason that I’m almost ready to admit I’m a senior is because I’ve been asked that question so many times that I’m almost immune to it. Apparently anyone who ends up making polite conversation with a senior is fascinated by their more than likely undecided plans for the future after college. But I shouldn’t find this surprising. That particular question is part of a chain that starts much earlier.
Around junior year of high school, small talk becomes universally stress-inducing. First it’s, “What schools are you looking at?” Then, “What schools are you applying to? Where did you get in? Where are you going? What’s your major? What are you going to do with that? What are you doing this summer? Are you going abroad? How was your experience abroad? How does it feel to be a senior? What are your plans for after you graduate?”
Polite conversation just has a knack for quickly leading to that thing that’s constantly nagging at you, that thing you unsuccessfully try to push to the back of your mind. You’d probably be much more successful if people would stop asking you about it. But giving your interviewee a slight anxiety attack leads to slightly more satisfying small talk than commenting on the weather.
In all fairness, I guess small talk is mostly just asking about the basics in an acquaintance’s life. But as we prepare for and go through college, our lives are filled with uncertainties about where all this real world preparation is leading us. And so those simple things that other people might want to know about us, we don’t even know ourselves yet. I can only hope that one day, not so terribly far into the future, people will ask me these seemingly simple questions about my life, and I’ll be able to answer with the certainty of someone who has finally started that life they’ve spent their whole young life waiting to begin. But for now, I hope it’s not terribly rude of me to secretly wish we could just comment on the weather.