I am obsessed with New York City. Many others here at the University are intrigued with the idea of living there, but I would argue that I always have been more so than others. So much so, that when New York City went through COVID I felt so scared for life in the Big Apple as I knew it — the place I always dreamt of living. I fell so in love with this Vogue-produced video, “I Love New York: Whoopi Goldberg, Bella Hadid, and Jeremy O. Harris Celebrate the City,” during this time. Within this beautiful homage to New York, the quote that resonates with me most is absolutely “New York makes you feel invincible, it makes you feel invisible. The thing that understands you at your worst, but pushes you towards your best.”
“College is not supposed to be the best four years of your life,” President John Bravman says while addressing a crowd of parents in a speech at the 2018 annual Family Weekend. Many, arguably most, parents might be relieved at these words, as they are emblematic of the academic rigor and intensity of the University. My parents, however, felt concern over my college years to come; they wanted me to have a fun, enjoyable college experience as a freshman. In the moment of them relaying Bravman’s message to me my gut twisted — after all, if they were worried, then I should definitely be worried. From here, I reflected on the reasons why I chose the University in question and whether or not I should actually take on the challenge before me. Imagery of soft cotton sheets and warmth of sunlight that matched the heat of summer around me popped in my head. My mother, during pregnancy, bought herself expensive and luxurious high thread count silk sheets as a treat to herself and a reward for her intense job at the time. I could never leave those sheets when I was a baby, whether she was in the room or not. My mother’s interpretation of this habit was not that I simply was greedy enough to bask in silk sheets all day, but that I wanted the best. That is why I chose the University, and still how I view it to this day: it is the best.
Everyone goes through hardships through college and considering the hardships that I have faced, the majority will call me very much lucky. However, I would be neglecting the reader if I did not point out the dangerous combination of naivety and egoism I embodied my freshman year. I genuinely thought that not only did I want the best, but that I deserved the best. My expectation that the University was supposed to be constant sunshine, friends, and crazy stories, clung to me as the months of freshman year passed. I could not keep my frustrations at bay for more than two semesters, as my own constant mental comparison to those around me furthered my contempt. These frustrations manifested themselves in an abrupt and messy demise to a best friendship — a best friend I made on the first day of Orientation — met with a strong urge to transfer.
Walking into sophomore year, my social life was very much so at a dead halt due to the performative breakup I put on full display. I decided to entertain myself with a more rigorous course load, becoming more active on campus and pushing myself to make new friends in an attempt to claw myself back closer to my expectations; my ‘movie’ of a college life. I became a TA, a Student Caller and joined the Bucknellian, for which I write today. My frustrations still continued, as I was by no means good at any of the roles that I played in these institutions, and struggled to feel happy and meaningful. It was not until the beginning of junior year that I finally gave up. Gave up on ego, gave up on what I thought I deserved during the wake of COVID. I learned the things I could live without, and that hard work is what matters when life feels as though it is just not how you want it. It was not until then that I started practicing this gratitude, that I felt my mood and focus improve and genuinely started succeeding in my responsibilities on campus.
Perhaps I think about the University today the way you would think of an ex; grateful, but happy to move forward. While I do still struggle between what is ego and what is self-respect, I am so appreciative of what college has shown me. The University has shown me that work-life provides meaning and stability. I have learned self-awareness. I have learned the purpose of growth and set myself up with a job after college that will provide me with a good life. I have met roommates that I am proud to call my best friends. It is funny what I thought that day in freshman year — eyes gleaming towards life in New York, — because how I felt about New York at the time would later prove to be the way I think about the University now. So even if college is not what you expected it to be, the University is a place that will understand you at your worst, but push you towards your best.