A Small Step, A Huge Leap

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My school was my second home to me. And when I say ‘home’, I don’t just mean the blue concrete building. I mean the teachers, the non-teaching staff, the worn-out benches, my classmates, the memories – all of it.

My last year was especially memorable. Probably because we spent the two years prior online, owing to the pandemic. Therefore, when we finally got to go back to school in person halfway through class XII, we desperately wanted to make up for the lost years, and make it as memorable as possible. And it did become so. I met wonderful people, made some core memories. According to the Gen Z lexicon, “had a blast”. When it all came to an end and I had to go to college, I was quite heartbroken.

My college admission process was exhausting. I was quite stressed over getting into a good college. I had certain aspirations, of course. I wanted to get into one particular college and when I couldn’t, I was frankly, devastated. I felt like I had let everyone down. I felt worse when I saw all my friends get into their dream colleges. I was definitely happy – proud of them, even, but I did feel like everyone else was moving forward while I was being left behind.

Despite all of this I was, of course, looking forward to college. Like every other person, I had grown up knowing that college is a whole new world of freedom. You can skip classes whenever you want to, just sit in the canteen gossiping for hours without any disturbance, exit the campus at whatever moment your brain decides that you no longer want to be there, and indulge in a thousand other things that you could’ve never even imagined back in school.

All of this, of course, turned out to be, in fact, not true in my case, when I took admission in a very strict convent college. You have to be present in class at 8:30 am sharp everyday (tragic, really, considering how I had been waking up at the crack of dawn everyday for fifteen years in school, and was really looking forward to sleeping late while at college). You could not leave the place before a particular time, and you had to maintain a certain percentage of attendance or else you would not be allowed to sit for your university exams (so no skipping classes for me).

My first few weeks in college were miserable. I did not know a single person, and felt awfully lonely. I would be depressed all the time, and hated rousing myself awake every morning to go to this place that was all too alien for me. It did not feel like home at all. I missed my old friends, my old teachers all the while.

In addition to that I heard all these stories about my friends in other colleges bunking classes. Meanwhile I could not even skip a lecture without having to present an absent note the next day. I felt like I had left one school, only to be admitted to another one. I was convinced that I was not cut out for this environment. And I was also sure that all of this could be avoided if only I got a chance to go to the college I had previously wanted to or, even better, if I could just go back to school. To make it simple, I wanted to be anywhere but this place.

But what was done was done, and for some unknown reason, all my family and relatives were certain that this was the best place for me. It was quite depressing, considering the fact that on top of all this disillusionment and disappointment, I was extremely introverted, and found it difficult to make new friends. Besides, I was too busy replaying all the fun moments I used to have with my old friends in my mind, brooding over my school days. I used to study in a co-education school, and had grown up learning that girls’ institutions are extremely boring, and can never live up to the chaotic, reckless and exciting environment of a co-ed one. It’s embarrassing, but I remember telling my cousin that “I am never going to a girls’ college, no matter what”.

Now suddenly having been shifted to an all-girls’ college, I felt like a fish out of water. The environment was way too ‘disciplined’ for me. I was resolute that I would never consider this college as my own place.  It was as if I was holding on to a grudge against my new college right from the beginning.

Where was this bitterness coming from? Even I was not sure. All I knew was that all he ‘fun college days’ my parents fondly talked about, would probably never be true for me. Dramatic as it might sound, I was scared that one day, I would grow up, and looking back on my college days, I would have no happy recollections to fondly retell at gatherings – just a collection of bitter moments spent at a place I could never call my own. Thankfully, I soon understood that I had to move on, and get used to the new environment, no matter how foreign it was (to be honest, it’s really not that foreign – I was just way too caught up in the whole “Oh, I am from South Point, you all Loreto people will never understand the kind of fun I am used to” mindset).

 

 

 

 

Where was this bitterness coming from? Even I was not sure. All I knew was that all he ‘fun college days’ my parents fondly talked about, would probably never be true for me. Dramatic as it might sound, I was scared that one day, I would grow up, and looking back on my college days, I would have no happy recollections to fondly retell at gatherings – just a collection of bitter moments spent at a place I could never call my own.

Gradually, I came to realise that I simply could not spend the next four years of my life sitting all alone in the library or in the classroom with my headphones plugged in, wishing that the day would be over soon. So, I thought to myself, “why not give this a chance?”. I started turning up at the college band auditions, going down to the canteen, and even made some friends. I got to know the people in my department.

Slowly, I realized, that this wasn’t that bad. Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. I started to have fun. I slowly started fitting into the ‘Loreto culture’, and actually started enjoying myself. I understood that adulthood did not mean an absence of restraint. It actually meant being independent while learning to be responsible.

It meant being able to travel to your college alone, to know when to speak up, to know how to stand up for yourself. Oh, and ‘fun’ does not necessarily mean bunking classes (glad I’ve understood that now – or else I would have spent my entire life feeling wistful that my friends in other colleges could simply choose not to attend a particular class, while I had to go to every single one.). It can come in other forms, such as playing dumb charades in the college lawn, or dancing with your friends during a DJ night at the college fest and watching everyone, for once, letting themselves go and not worry about the thousands of pending assignments. After all, you can feel the joy of a cancelled class only if you rarely get one.

In the end, all I can say is that you’re always at the right place at the right time, it just takes you a moment to realize that. I’m glad I’ve understood it now.  It will take some time for my college to become my home like my school did, of course, but I’m sure it will, one day. Doesn’t matter how strict it is – no, what matters is that I love my new friends, my classmates and my professors. Dramatic as it may sound, I feel like I’ve learnt a valuable lesson in my attempts to fit into a new place and a completely new environment. It may be difficult to leave behind a place you hold very close to your heart and adapt to a new one, but if you don’t give it a chance, you shall never know. Sometimes, you have to come out of your shell and make an effort, and honestly, it’s all worth it in the end.

Image courtesy: Google

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