Post- Magazine

senior anxieties [narrative]

to be lost and found and lost once more

I am jealous of every single first-year. It’s a sad truth, but an honest one nonetheless. Sitting in an English seminar, populated by everyone from grad students to seventeen-year-old first-years, the range of ages jumps out, refusing to be subdued by the equalizing experience of the classroom. Despite my constant irritation at every naïve question posed by a plucky first-year, I am left with nothing except a deep, excruciating envy that eats at my heart: I would give anything to be in their shoes.  

Another semester at the same old school. As the leaves slowly crisp and drop to the ground, I fall into a  familiar pattern, a warm embrace that reminds me of the natural rhythms of life. Yet this year, the red leaves and brisk autumn air don't bring the usual comfort—they only serve as bitter reminders of the impending end of all this. 


As a senior facing the end of my college experience, the natural reaction is to look to the past, to the many things I did and didn't do during my four years at Brown. Faced with the distinct not-college life awaiting me, the only response can be to struggle and splash about, a fish blindly fighting its fate after it has been caught on a line. Rather than think about applying to grad school or looking for employment, I choose to submerge myself deeper into college, throwing myself into academics with a zeal unseen since my very first weeks at Brown. 

In many ways, the first days of senior year are very similar to the first days of freshman year: both are a blurry mess of parties, celebrations, events. Beyond the physical parallels, they both invoke a nervousness, an entry into the unknown. Freshman year, thousands of hard-working, high-achieving students flood Brown's campus. For many, it’s their first foray into a life outside of the classroom and the home. As these recent high school graduates taste the many freedoms associated with college, they get caught up in their blur. For myself and other seniors, there is a similar sensation of overwhelming movement, the feeling that things are finished before I even knew they began. Despite the growing monotony of college, there is an underlying rhythm of finality, knowing that this is the last year of this life. This bass tone of conclusion begets madness, a feeling that I must continue to act on or else everything will pass me by. 

Despite the parallels between myself and my younger peers, the differences between us have never seemed so large. As a senior concentrating in English, I have sat through too many seminars where students prattle on about meaningless details and blindly defend misreadings, posturing about their own intellectualism while fundamentally misunderstanding the text. Having been in too many classes where the students push on about Marxist frameworks or Jungian archetypes, my patience has reached an all-time low. The unfortunate first-year in my class, the undeserving target of my vitriol, has never been in my shoes; they don't know why I cringe every time they mention praxis, and that's okay. What to them is a cheeky, go-getter attitude, one that likely endeared them to their high school English teachers, is to me only artless naiveté. 

In spite of my outward scorn, the nugget of truth lying at the core of my derision is anything but hatred. Rather, it's jealousy so overwhelming that it can't be denied. My condescension, my false sense of superiority, are all masks to disguise the envy that eats at my soul. What comes across as grating stupidity is anything but—their undisguised hunger for learning is beyond anything I can muster at this moment. To sit in a classroom, to listen without judgment, to diligently take note of every detail of every comment, is a remarkable skill, one that I feel I have lost forever. 

The staggering changes of senior year, and simultaneous reminders that I am still in college, complicate everything. A magnification of the overwhelming experience that is everyday life, senior year combines lassitude with constant action. Every day is filled with exhausted attitudes that are equally impatient for the future and terrified about its coming. A microcosm of the constant deluge of information and emotion, every day of senior year feels like a war inside myself, one that leaves me a shell of a person, as if I am seeing my life pass me by. 


I mourn the freshman I once was, the girl who arrived at Brown bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Flying across the country, she is here to start her new life, to embark on the great adventure that is college. I see her scrolling through CAB, trying to maximize her educational and intellectual pursuits, and it makes me cry. She is that aggravating first-year in my English seminar, waiting after class to ask the professor unnecessary questions; she is the student who will not stop raising her hand, always eager to participate. 

When she first stepped onto Brown's campus, nestled away in the freshman sanctuary of North Campus, the school was a different place. Instead of the tiresome buildings whose complicated stairways and poorly-planned layouts that drive me crazy, the campus was filled with beautiful architecture and buildings that act as gateways to the heaven that is higher education. The Main Green was not the site of countless mosquito bites and awkward campus dances; it was an Eden bursting with countless activities, whether it was lying on a hammock, soaking up the sun, or playing spikeball with friends, all of whom looked the picture of happiness. 

Walking through campus, I am facing the idea that this may be my last first semester ever. I feel her coming back. Instead of cringing every time I see an over-enthusiastic hand refuse to come down, I take a moment to see not a random first-year but myself, three years younger. She is not lost. She's still here with me, guiding me every time I get excited over a particularly interesting discussion, encouraging me when I ask questions about things that confuse me. She's right next to me, soaking in the excitement of senior year, celebrating the things I have accomplished at Brown. At the end of the day, I have nothing to be jealous of; that first-year in my English seminar is just like me, taking in everything that college offers without regret.

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