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Cows, Colleges, Contentment, and Coziness

February 28, 2013 at 12:07 am

For a long time I thought the good moments, the best moments, were those one-offs: "Remember the time we….? Wow, that was so crazy/cool/amazing!" My freshman year, I loved those moments. I lived for them. I thought they were the moments to remember. I’m working on a different theory these days.

The moments I’m more into are the ones that happen so much that they are magically normal. Winter term might suddenly get epic and crazy, but it also might not. In some ways it has been really fun and different but for the most part it…hasn’t.

And I’m OK with that. The best parts of this term have been the continual, surprising familiarities that have quietly crept up: the fact that my roommate and I have now figured out exactly how to best place a laptop for watching movies on my bed, the fact that I know by heart the office hours for two professors, the fact that I have new lunch buddies who I never make plans with but who always seem to be in Sayles exactly when I’m eating.

I used to think the best memories were like snapshots, but there’s something really cool about the fact that I can’t remember exactly when that conversation happened because it’s absorbed in the context of so many others.

My Carleton now isn’t the Carleton of one-offs. It’s the story now of “Was that this year or last year?” and “The time last week or last month?” And yet, nostalgia bathes all these memories in a certain kind of special-ness, because I know that even though now these situations feel frequent and constant, they haven’t always been and they won’t always be.

Freshman year, so many things still were unique. Some of them were that way because they were new, some of them were that way because things weren’t just quite right yet, because I was still trying to discover who I was here. I spent time with some amazing people my first year here. Many of them are still my close friends. And some of them aren’t. Some of them I haven’t talked to since. And in a way I couldn’t have understood then, it’s all alright.

There’s a nice camaraderie among members of the senior class these days. It could be because a lot of us are working on our comps projects and therefore a little sleep-deprived, but I think it’s also because a lot of people have started to look familiar. I went to college in many ways longing to be someone else; once I got here, I realized both that I could be exactly who I wanted to be and I had no choice but to be who I was. These might seem contradictory; but they aren’t. You’re around people so much, in so many contexts, that, for the most part, we learn to accept each other and live with each other, because we literally do. But you’re also with a lot of people who desire to change too, who want to be their best selves, who aspire to figure out exactly who that is. Who a person is in class and who a person is on the weekend and who a person is on their team or in their club or over lunch is all just part of the picture. And some, or all, of those things might change or grow over time, too, which just makes it all the more complicated.

If you visit Carleton, you might notice that campus seems isolated until…it’s not. One of the biggest points I try to note on my tour is that most of the classes are in block scheduling, so you might see two people or twenty-five depending on whether you’re walking around during a passing period. I absolutely have my days when all I want is to see no one, when I dread seeing that person and yet know they’re exactly who I’ll run into. But I also, usually, have days when seeing people is great, when it brightens my day to say Hi to people from my freshman floor and professors I had two years ago. And when I also can laugh at the fact that I’m waving to the teacher who assigned the terrible essay I’m working on, or run into a friend’s ex more than I run into the friend.

I was worried when I started college that I had to be on all the time, and happy, because I would just see these people all the time. But what it actually turns out to be is a pretty big support net. You’re cold. You’re stressed. A new motto that might be fitting for this time of year is: We get it. Minnesota nice, as I understand it, isn’t lying or fake-y nice. It’s just…nice. “How’s it going?” we ask each other, breath visible, in dirty snow or ice, outside the library, the student center, the math building. “It’s going.” We say. And it does.

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