From the top to the bottom, it’s a fall from fortitude and glory as graceful as Miley Cyrus’s transition from Disney sweetheart to foam-finger sex machine. Although I do get mistaken for Kanye West on a regular basis, I am not talking about a celebrity transition from adoration to widespread scorn such as that West experienced after the Taylor Swift shenanigans or Cyrus’ life after her VMA meltdown. And even if I were indeed Mr. West, anyone who dared approach me would have his face smashed in with a 15-karat bling ring.
I’m talking about that plunge from being a strutting, strapping, suave senior to being a squirmy, shock-eyed, self-conscious freshman. Oh yes, you know the struggle. And as if this post didn’t have enough pop culture references already: These new freshmen sing their own version of Drake’s “Started from the Bottom Now We Here” loud and proud in order to make them feel better. There’s something about simply twisting the words to proclaim they “Started from the Top Now We Here” that gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling, much like when their moms would make them fresh-baked cookies with milk in the week leading up to college.
You might be saying to yourself: “Whoa, bro, that was you only a year ago, you sophomore, pretentious fool.” But, that’s exactly what scares me. That was indeed me, walking down Durant Avenue in a pack of floormates while getting stoked that someone else likes the Strokes, too — we must be friends now! — only 365 days ago. It doesn’t scare me in the “oh my god, did I actually used to wear plaid shorts” kind of way but more so because I already feel dramatically distanced from that first week of college.
Why do I feel so much older than that now? How have I become so removed from those awkward first stages of college?
In some cases, my growth from freshman year is a comforting revelation. Now only 90 percent of the myriad of faces I see on my way to class belong to people I have never met in my life, instead of 99.9 percent. I know that if I am assigned a 10- to 12-page research paper, it couldn’t possibly be worse than what I did last year, when at midnight the night before it was due, I was still looking for primary sources while a blank Word document was tauntingly laughing at me like my high school basketball coach when I couldn’t do 50 pushups. I don’t have to deal with matted hair in the shower drain, courtesy of my female floormates, or with vomit in the sink, courtesy of said female floormates’ drunken boy toy from the night before. I also went through a period of self-discovery during my freshman year and learned things about myself, such as that I actually am capable of making my own macaroni and cheese. I must say, at first it was a luxury when Bobby Flay would call me for tips on the daily, but now it’s starting to be quite the nuisance.
In other cases, this distance from the first year is a scarier revelation than going to college and realizing you have to find someone to apply your Preparation H for you. The magical euphoria I felt as an incoming freshman walking through Sproul or looking over the bay from the top of the Campanile was an incredible state of mind that seemed to wisp and degrade away as time coarsely rubbed against it. The carefree optimism turned into the rapid scurry to catch all the grains of sand before they leak through the hourglass.
Perhaps it is the abrupt disappearance of a quarter of my college experience. In the beginning of it all, it felt as if four years was a colossal amount of time. But then, suddenly, it is apparent that it is actually only a minimal span. Instead of looking to see who else on my floor enjoys the neuroticism of Woody Allen movies or drinking strawberry smoothies, I am forced to look for a major and a career path. The burdens of the real world are seemingly seeping into and occupying the wide-eyed naivety prevalent in my first steps on campus.
Although I may sound disenchanted, perhaps even bitter, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I think the appropriate term would be “wiser.” Wise enough to realize that a college experience is only a bullet point on the timeline of my life. Wise enough to realize that instead of scoffing at the freshman nature, aiming to maintain that ambitious, open attitude is the best way to be throughout my years here at Cal. Wise enough to realize that there is a high chance I will look back at this post a year from now and laugh at how mature I thought I was as an insignificant sophomore.
Nevertheless, might as well continue to get those excited goosebumps about all the little things that make college unique, for the grains in the hourglass are a bit too heavy to lift.