“College is the best four years of your life.”
We’ve all heard that phrase. Most likely it has come from the mouth of a vague acquaintance at some shmoozy party or family gathering. Let’s say it’s a coworker of my dad’s. She sighs, gives her red wine a nostalgic slosh and enthusiastically tells me, again, to enjoy it, before departing in search of that famed seven-layer bean dip everyone’s been talking about.
Combine that with the image of a scruffy Josh Radnor skipping down Middle Path like it’s the Yellow Brick Road, throwing his arms up in the air with similar enthusiastic choreography as Hilary Duff in the “What Dreams Are Made Of” sequence at the end of The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and we have a lot of pressure to fall in love with college. Even the latest admissions campaign features Kenyon as a possible significant other.
Can’t we just be friends? Could I at least buy Ascension dinner first? It would have to be a very lavish meal to impress that gorgeous Gothic architecture, and I am not sure I can afford the Kenyon Inn right now. Maybe I should set my sights on taking Mather out first — I know it wouldn’t mind a romantic evening of Netflix and Gambier Grill takeout. See, Kenyon, I know I might have said some things last Midnight Slice about how happy I was and perhaps made it seem like I was ready for something more, but I was reveling in the mind-altering powers of cheese and pepperoni. I wasn’t in my right mind! Now I feel like we’re going too fast.
I know this image of college as the pinnacle of life comes from admissions officers who are just doing their job to attract students. A postcard hanging over a teacher’s desk in my high school had a picture of Ohio State with the caption “I bleed scarlet and gray” in menacing looking capitals.
Let me be the first to say that I am happy here, though perhaps if you saw me when I spilled a meatball on my pants last week and I looked close to tears because I had to go home and change it would appear the opposite. I’m just not sure if the violet blood that runs through the Purple Person also courses through my veins. I do know that, especially after spending a semester abroad, in my junior year I have realized just how special Kenyon is.
While every small liberal arts college sells the “community” aspect through pamphlets featuring a picture of a gray-haired lady chatting with a young student on a leafy campus, the community here is real and tangible.
I loved that unbelievably strange moment during last year’s spring Midnight Breakfast when some angel called in Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” to WKCO and both sides of Peirce engaged in a stress- and sugar-fuelled karaoke session. Some had gummy worms swinging out of their mouths, others brandished hash brown triangles on forks like proud flags, but everyone was singing. When “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed next and the magic campfire-style sing-a-long continued, I knew I had made the right choice in choosing Kenyon those few years ago.
Despite the amazing connections I’ve made here — whether with friends, professors, AVI workers and the fabulous Julie from the post office — there are times when the hug of belonging feels like a strangle. The frantic phases when I find myself spinning wheels, treading water or acting out any other stalemate metaphor are short lived.
Still, when I am in the midst of one of these slight, natural dips, I feel like I’m betraying something. The cultural discourse depicting undergrad as some sort of intellectual adventure party utopia sprinkled with PBR cans and stories to slap that broad “when you’re older” label on makes me feel like I’m doing college wrong if I do not exclaim every morning how much I sincerely love it.
With all the authority vested in me by this wandering column, I hereby free any reader from the confines of the “I absolutely love it” standardized small talk response. Tell your dental hygienist you enjoy college “just fine,” or reply to your hair cutting lady that undergrad is “good.” Don’t cave into their inquisitive stares that beg to ask why you neglected to use a more hyperbolic superlative. Let them wonder why you are failing to respond.
In the words of my second-favorite inspiration, Bob Dylan, sometimes “there’s no success like failure.”
And when you do fail, feeling like the Kenyon Bubble is some kind of Iron Curtain, don’t be afraid to be a little grumbly or withdrawn. Allow me to draw some inspiration from my single favorite muse, Hannah Montana, when she preaches, “Everybody makes mistakes / has those days. / If I’m not doin’ too well / Why be so hard on myself? / Nobody’s Perfect. / I gotta work it.”
Consider this my final remark, Kenyon: we’re just going to have to be friends.
Annie Sheslow ’15 is an English major from Wilmington, Del. You can contact her at email@example.com.