How My Sophomore Year Of College Changed The Way I See The Universe
Nothing scares me more than the concept time, or perhaps a lack there of.
Simultaneously, there has always been something strange about the middle.
The age-old metaphor places the human race into two categories: those who look at the glass half full, and those who look at the glass half empty.
The anonymous genius behind this cliché, however, failed to address what happens when you find yourself situated at the glass’ divide.
How do you make the most of your circumstances when you fear both the past and the future?
Like most young adults departing for college, I arrived at the University of Delaware on August 22, 2013, uncertain as to how I would survive on my own for the very first time.
I didn’t want to grow out of the connections I made because they defined me; a new normal meant a new Olivia, and I felt neither prepared nor excited for such a transformation.
I couldn’t sleep at night; crying my eyes out often prevented me from getting out of bed for days at a time.
After a lifetime of high expectations, my first taste of college proved incredibly disappointing. The “best four years” seemed far from a guarantee.
My dreams later evolved into a reality; I fell head over heels in love with the University of Delaware.
Yet, if you asked me on a random day in October of 2013, after hours of tossing and turning at night from anxiety, I would have told a lie along the lines of, “It’s not so great right now, but it’ll get better.”
Two years later, I live the life I always wanted, one that I’m proud of.
I found comfort in the fact that my hometown friends were, too, beginning to call their colleges home; we really were young adults. It was a shared experience, and it validated our friendships.
Fast-forward to Spring 2015. As I approach my sophomore year’s conclusion, I characterize a successful first half by “the little things.”
It was chasing my towed car down a main road with one of my best friends at 11:45 pm, and then spending the duration of the night finishing fraternity formal coolers/b*tching about how the tow truck driver didn’t treat me very nicely.
It was ordering entire baguettes at Panera after a long day drink, and amidst plenty of stares, finishing them in approximately two minutes.
It was walking to White Clay Creek state park to see the sunset.
It was playing with puppies for the fun of it, and mocking one another when the dog didn’t seem to enjoy our company too much.
It was the people I spent these memories with that made me see more than the black and white; there need not be a “hometown me” and a “college me."
We are one person, and that’s okay.
I’m afraid there is no greater challenge than having all the tools in your kit, but not knowing which way to turn the screwdriver.
This growing pain captures the halfway point’s complexity.
I spent my entire life looking forward to the future, and without warning or invitation, the future arrived.
Despite falling head over heels in love with my life at school, my friends and family gave me the confidence to make the ballsiest decision I ever made, to study abroad on my own through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Once I received admission into DIS in Copenhagen on February 26, 2015, I experienced, at most, 10 minutes of sheer joy and excitement.
I attempted to contrive a movie in my mind about how my semester abroad would pan out: traveling, going out, making friends, etc.
I needed something tangible to make my future seem animated, but where to begin?
The questioning persisted; did I choose the right semester to study abroad? Why do I feel the need to completely start anew (and alone) in a place I know nothing about?
These doubts kept me preoccupied in class, distracted while driving and inattentive in conversation -- am I in too deep?
My peers constantly threw the phrase “time of your life” around left and right, but these empty-meaning statements were far from guarantees.
Flashbacks to my nearly self-destructive transition into college ran rampant.
As a self-diagnosed “control freak,” I crashed into a permanent state of ambivalence.
Though initially too embarrassed to verbalize my concerns, my doubts circled my mind faster than you could say Denmark.
Although my parents always raised me to believe that I had the world (quite literally) at my fingertips, I nevertheless harbor a tiny instinct that the worst-case scenario is imminent.
My friends, family and the essence of Delaware were more than just a support system, but an inextricable facet of my identity.
Who would I be without them by my side through the good, bad and ugly?
As the human embodiment of how truly beautiful I find my college experience to be, the possibility of living without them physically in Copenhagen seemed up in the air.
Sure, “it’s abroad,” and traveling alone is far from the worst thing in the world, but nothing can replace your safety net.
It’s not like I was graduating, after all, and I did feel guilty about doubting my opportunity to embark on the journey of a lifetime, but let’s not forget nothing lasts forever.
When “the time of my life” comes to a screeching halt, and I return to a walking ghost of what my college experience used to be, when my best friends have new best friends, a new dynamic in their new housing, new love interests, new inside jokes, a new routine and I’m not a part of it for the final half’s duration, did I still really have “the time of my life?”
I distinctly remember sitting around a table in Perkins Student Center just five days before I left Newark for the semester, for an entire semester.
I sat with my best friends, one of which who is also abroad.
I read a quote I stumbled across from Azar Nafisi, “You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place, I told him, like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again.”
Goosebumps emerged as the quote from the phone began to take life in front of my eyes.
My friends and I will not be together -- they will make memories without me and add another chapter to their story without me in it.
Not to mention, some of my best friends chose to study abroad in the spring, so we won’t be all together at school at for a solid year.
That being said, I set out on a mission to live two semesters worth of fun into one -- yolo, right?
I guess you could say I wasn’t really looking at my life from the lens of “going abroad,” but more so, “not going to be in Delaware.”
I tried to live as hard as I could to make the most of my semester, but something still held me back from saying what I needed to say and having both my mind and body living completely in the moment.
Even though it would be a while for me to return, I still would, in time, come back to Delaware.
That’s the halfway point’s conundrum.
You find yourself afraid to make a mistake, to take a sip from your otherwise half-full glass, but what if that mistake is worth all the while?
Perhaps you learn from that error, and that hands-on lesson healed a wound that time failed to mend.
Nevertheless, you still have two more years left to go, and while your circumstances may deceive you into feeling as if it’s all coming to a close, it’s far from over.
We change all the time, but people, places and things have an odd tendency to remain pure at their foundation.
How do you proceed when your eyes are only somewhat open?
Do I make the mistake, or does time really do heal all wounds?
Hell, is later even guaranteed, and if so, how late is too late?
They say you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
When I drove to the airport with my parents, I could barely speak, eat or send a text.
“It’s all happening,” I thought to myself, and I felt unprepared.
In hindsight, those fears stemmed from uncertainty.
Without my friends, my routine, my community, I did not know if I could stand on my own two feet.
But here I am.
Amidst the stress of travel plans, adjusting to a new culture and making sure I have enough money in my bank account to buy a latte, something about Copenhagen reminds me, day in and day out, that everything will be okay.
This universe tends to unfold exactly as it should.
Yet if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from the halfway point’s uncertainty, it’s that these fears ignite a fuel to finish the glass, and finish strong.
The end is by no means something to look forward to, but it’s an inspiration, a motivation to push yourself a little harder to send that risky text, to finish that last drink, to walk a block or two out of the way just to admire the view.
It’s true; today’s beauty proves exquisitely unique than tomorrow's.
For this reason, I have no choice but to take a deep breath, savor it, cherish it, to take it all in.
I’ve done so much. I’ve lived -- all with half the glass left to experience.
I don’t know what’s ahead, but in the meantime, I see no harm in enjoying the view.