As a Portico teacher’s assistant, I have the rare opportunity to spend 50 minutes twice a week in a classroom packed with first-semester freshmen. When I’m not engaging in class conversations about John Locke or The Wealth of Nations, I’ve found myself reminiscing on my own freshman year. So much has changed in such a short amount of time. Back in my day, we had to wear masks to go to Portico!
Sometimes when I meet with my Portico freshmen (“Portikids,” if you will), I feel like an old witch clamoring about ye olde times. Back in my freshman year, no one could have more than two visitors in their room, and you prayed to evade being contact-traced for just one more week. Many feared the Pine Slammer (Pine Manor, which served as one of Boston College’s quarantine zones). Still, some things about freshman year never change.
When you’re a freshman, everything is new, everything is exciting, and everything is a little bit scary. The laundry room is overwhelming. Canvas is confusing. Distractions (and emails) are everywhere. Just ask freshman year me. I had plenty to say about all of it.
Recently reading through my old columns was like finding an old version of myself I almost forgot existed. I tend to think of myself as one singular person, sometimes ever-changing and sometimes staying exactly the same—like a thread unraveling forward into time. I felt nostalgic for a life I already lived when I read about my anxieties as a younger college student. The smell of Keyes North and the way the Newton bus would squeal around corners have become artifacts of a time I once knew.
And now, just as God and Time have intended, I am someone new. Someone shaped by that person but no longer completely defined by them. I’m still direct roommates with my freshman year roommate (Newton bonds never die), but neither of us are the same people we met that first day on campus. Sometimes it makes me sad, thinking about all the things that once were. I start to feel like that old witch again, clamoring about how it used to be, wishing it could be that way again.
If I let myself drift too far, though, I lose the opportunity to be grateful for the present. Sure, I might be an old witch sometimes, but that old witch loves to tailgate in the Mods, watch movies with her roommates, and bust a move at the Fenway bars. She loves to sing while doing the dishes and run around in an eagle onesie. She loves all the things her past self would have loved too, and she’s grown into a person her younger self would look up to.
It’s safe to say that I have mastered the communal laundry system, Canvas, and managing my distractions (kind of). Eventually, we conquer the fears of our past selves, and we develop new ones to take their place. But that’s not what I want to spend my time focusing on. Instead, I like to cherish the person I’ve grown up to be—a person who has classes to go to, friends to dance with, emails to answer, and columns to write. I have so much life unfolding out before me, waiting to be lived.
If I could travel back, as the person I am now, and give my freshmen year self a big hug, telling her everything was going to be okay, I would. I wish I could hand her this column and prove to her that things would work out. And I’d tell her to hold fast to the memories. But the only version of ourselves we get is the current one, so as I start my senior year, I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly grateful for all that is and all that will be.