Changing perspectives

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August 29, 2007

12:25 PM

This fall marks the first time in 21 years that my parents have had an empty nest. Now, I’m not sure how much they miss me anymore — as I’m a senior, they’re used to my absence — but I know they miss my kid brother, Josh. We made the five-hour drive to Radford a week ago, moved him in and left. No ceremony, no lengthy goodbyes, just a few hard hugs, some words of wisdom and a wave. As we headed home in silence, I realized that there was so much I wanted to say to him on his first day as a college student.

p. Looking back, I can remember how it felt: a slithering mixture of excitement, nervousness, anticipation and the terrible urge to be sick. So many strangers (one of whom I had to live with), so many new rules and freedoms. A huge wide world in which I could either grow or drown, and classes where the professors were going to challenge me. I was leaving the comfort of a supportive family.

p. It was terrifying. Liberating. It made me feel so small, but so lucky. What would I do with the next four years? Would I be successful? Would I have fun, have friends? Would I get lost on the first day of classes? Would I like the cafeteria food?
Josh probably felt and thought many of the same things that day. He was a little pale, a little quiet. He looked small and alone as we pulled out of the parking lot beside his dorm.

p. I could have told him not to worry. That the fun and friends would come so easily, and would have so many rewards. That getting lost on the first day of classes happens, and it’s no real tragedy. That yeah, cafeteria food sucks. Not much anyone can do about that. That as long as he pays attention, as long as he finds what he loves and studies it, school will be both challenging and wonderfully enlightening. That the next four years of his life will be, without a doubt, some of the best he will ever have; very few things will ever come close.

p. I could have told him that, as a senior, I see things differently. I’m looking back on my freshman year and yearning to be there again. I’m not saying that being a senior doesn’t have its charms. But freshman year is special. Bonds of friendship are made, there are adventures and discoveries to be had, horizons to be widened. In my freshman year alone, I discovered that I love Korean food and Bollywood movies, and that the time I spend with my friends is just as precious and important as the time I spend learning. I didn’t know then how much I had to look forward to, how many great things were to come.

p. So a little advice from a seasoned senior to all of you who, like my brother, are entering the hallowed halls of higher education for the first time this fall: don’t be nervous — take hold of this year with both hands, hold tight. There’s so much you can do with it.
To all my fellow seniors: remember the first year in the midst of your last. Remember how it really was pretty much perfect.

p. __Ashley Baird is a senior at the College.__

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