Imagine for a moment you are in a parachute. You can see beneath you. It looks scary, yet exciting. Landing approaches. The canopy is opening. At any moment you will hit the ground. The anticipation of impacting the earth when you touch down is constantly on your mind. But a tree appears out of nowhere and the suspension lines get tied to it. While hanging from the tree, the ties on the parachute snap and a fall face down is inevitable. The moment I arrived on campus, I felt this way.
I was surrounded by a grey cold fog. I could barely tell apart shadows from darkness. All I saw was shapeshifting masses of buildings parading in front of my eyes as I walked through campus. My inner compass couldn’t find the north. I had to decipher the code of campus life.
The Swarthmorean language seemed impossible at a first glance. An enormous question mark was drawn on my face every time someone mentioned “Essie’s” or “Sci.” To this day I keep mixing up “Sci” with “Singer.” Every time I utter a word in Swarthmorean, my inner self feels victorious. It is another battle won in the mental war of adaptation.
Google Maps was my guide through these lands. It held my hand and helped me take my first baby steps on this campus. From getting food at Sharples to finding the Matchbox, everything felt ridiculously victorious. Just letting a breath of air out of my mouth in a conversation felt like building Rome with my bare hands.
Time has a brush that will slowly begin to paint colours around you. People’s voices acquire their own ring to them. Your eyes shed the fog bit by bit and you can now see people with clarity. The dystopian vision of distant masked faces made me think everyone would be stuck in anonymity. Yet faces acquire their warmth, depth and personality. Familiar smiles and laughter turn into lanterns that illuminate the dark halls of your dorm. You develop a sixth sense of how to recognize people under masks.
The gates of the mental prison of dread open, and you can now step a foot outside. What petrified me before kept vanishing as the clock kept running its track. The cold of the winter no longer feels like it’s freezing your soul. You will overcome snow-shock if you are someone like me who thought of snow as an exotic wonder. You will wake up every morning to see the beauty of the winter all over campus. The buildings on campus are no longer just a view, and they become tangible. The fear of the outside retreats. Even though at times all you can see is patches of grey, they will fade away. The fog will let the light in.