This week on Throwback Thursday, we’ll be recounting a pivotal day in the history of Susie: my very first day of college. I actually wrote this in a journal I was keeping in tandem with my best friend, who went to college in Sacramento. The deal was, since we couldn’t be with each other every moment anymore, we would each write about all of our experiences in a journal which we would later exchange. The fact that I still have this journal to be able to recount it to you should tell you how well that plan worked out.
Maybe decades of overhyped college movies are to blame here, or the amount of time I’ve spent envisioning this moment… but my first class as a student at SDSU is infuriatingly disappointing.
My professor is not old and wise and graying, with studious-looking bifocals and the hint of a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. He is a 40-something divorcee (he mentioned his ex-wife 30 seconds into his introduction) – with too much hair, and the tendency some adults have to assume that cursing allows them to relate to today’s youth. His sentences are peppered with “hell”s and “damn”s, and he looks around for approval each time before continuing.
When I signed up for “Philosophy 101,” it was with wide-eyed enthusiasm, envisioning – oh, I don’t know – desks in a circle, not rows. Heated class discussions that continue long outside the classroom. A teacher who coaches us with the unbridled passion of a close friend.
My notebook is categorized into pretty little sections, and one of which is labeled, in meticulous handwriting, Philosophy. It is to this section that it currently lies open, “August 27, 2007” written neatly at the top of the page. My pen is still poised on line one.
I look around at my fellow freshman, presumably also experiencing their first college class. Fifteen minutes in, two are already sleeping. The girl to my immediate left is doodling boats in the margins of her paper.
Our desks, regrettably, are in a boring little grid. As of yet, we have not engaged in any awe-inspiring philosophical debates, and this professor looks about as excited to be here as we do.
He drones on about course expectations, walking us through the syllabus line by line. He feels the need to outline for us that 90% and above is considered an A. 80% and above is a B, etc. (Where does he think we’ve been for the last 18 years, that would necessitate this explanation?)
There will be a midterm and a final and they are both multiple-choice (in a philosophy class?). Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated, nor will tardiness or truancy. (But sleeping in class is apparently a-okay.)
When he begins talking about chewing gum (we’re not allowed to), I start to drift. My eyes begin to wander, and I settle on the girl to my left, whose nautical drawings in the margins have expanded – her oceans eventually spilling onto the main of the paper. The entire first page of her notebook is filled with swirling water and waves – just on the brink of crashing into impressively detailed sailboats and pirate ships.
After a minute of being mesmerized by the sight of it, I look down at my own notebook – which still only holds the date. I suddenly become overwhelmed with pressure about what my first penstroke of the first page in my first class on my very first day of college will be.
If only I could doodle.
After a few awkward scribbles, I settle on a short story. I write about my walk to class, and how positive I was about being the only female in a several-block radius wearing jeans. How my iPod played “Hard Times” by Ray Charles, and it made me chuckle to myself – juxtaposed with my surrounding peers, donning Gucci purses and designer clothes. I reflected on my fellow students at this school, the sororities and short shorts. It was like a gathering of the “popular” group of every high school in the state, consolidated into one location. I’ve never exactly fit in, but here I couldn’t see how I ever would. I felt wholly and absolutely different. Other.
Before I can even finish a paragraph, Mr. Freeman is telling the class they can go. It catches me off guard – I scramble to stuff my supplies in my backpack, and everybody else is out the door more rapidly than I can even process what’s happening.
How were they all so completely synchronized? They must have been packed up already, I think. They must have been watching the clock.
I can hardly blame them. We’ll all probably be watching the clock for the next four years.