Two weeks before LDOC, I was just finishing up at my college adviser's office, glad that I got to reflect on what exactly happened in my first year at college before its tail slipped away from my grip and relieved that I had finally figured out (kind of) what to do in the next year of my life, when Ms. Guinn suddenly added, on top of wishing me good luck with finals, “And you’re about to have your first LDOC, right?”

“…Right, yeah.”

“Well, have fun at that! I’m excited for you!” she said, with her signature sparkling white-teeth grin.

…LDOC…

Closing the door behind me, I walked out into the day outside that is full of the promises of spring.

L

By the time LDOC actually came, spring was in full ripeness.

But the day started as usual, except that even in class, people were unusually relaxed, mentally preparing themselves for the party later on.

Or maybe it was just me.

There was a two-hour gap in between my morning and afternoon classes, so I used the time to wander around a bit and take a look at the daytime activities. In the Bryan Center Plaza, people stood in long lines for DanCakes, where an artist would paint your face on a freshly cooked pancake for you to take a Insta-worthy picture and then eat it up; very long lines for glitter tattoos and face paint; and extremely long line for the caricature artist who, though wearing a suit and a high hat, had the knack to get a big smile from you in five minutes and draw it down in a way that could get even more big smiles from you in the future.

Oh, and don’t forget the half-hour drizzle that forced people in lines to cram themselves under the little tents and made everyone a little worried about the outdoor concert at night. According to the upperclassmen, rain is “so classic” of Duke’s LDOC.

Yes, I was in the line for glitter tattoos for a blue rose on my thigh, then waited for two hours for a caricature painting and was late for class.

D

I walked out of my last class of freshman year and immediately sensed that the whole world had changed.

Probably in a more literal sense than you think: People had already changed out of their go-to-class outfits and into dresses, skirts, shorts, tank tops and button-downs. Wherever I went, there were laughter, chatter and the imperceptible excitement in the air that heralded the beginning of a party.

The weather did not fail us in the end. The rain teased us but then gave the stage to the sun. A little breeze did decide to crash the party.

Based on asking upperclassmen about LDOC to clear away my anxiety — they couldn’t exactly explain it though — it’s not an event that is conducive to meeting up with people, so you’re supposed to just “go with the flow.” So I suppressed the small Type A side of my personality that comes to dominate in this kind of grossly unknown and confusing situation and was able to drag a few friends that I met at the BBQ in Penn Pavilion to join the Silent Disco crowd, which initially stunned and confused me.

O

Halfway into the night, I agreed that LDOC is not the most convenient for meeting up with friends, but I was surprised that it helped me make new friends. The group I was with was made up totally spontaneously, and it all worked out perfectly.

I lost track of the number and order of the places we stopped at that day. BC Plaza, Edens, McDonald’s, the concert, Keohane, Edens again, West Union, the concert again…

It was crowded everywhere. I never realized the student body at Duke was this large — people lining up for chicken nuggets, people swinging their bodies on the temporary dance floor, people just sitting on the steps at the plaza and staring into the sunset…

Sometimes I saw a glimpse of a gait that I was familiar with, a pair of eyes that I recognized or a side view of a face that looked like one of my friends. But they soon were carried away by the crowd.

When the night fell completely, I found myself on the dance floor when the concert was at its peak with Marc E. Bassy, looking up to the night sky whose boundaries were pushed by the concert lights. Then I turned my attention to the stage and saw the clouds of red turned orange, turned yellow, turned green, turned blue, turned purple…

My friends and I fought for space on the floor and started dancing.

The crowd was noisy and silent at the same time.

The clouds turned vapor. Turned smoke. Turned light.

I closed my eyes.

C

Now I understand the upperclassmen’s struggle to sum up what LDOC is.

It is hard. The Snapchat stories. The Instagram posts that came after. The memories. The freedom. The fun.

Just as hard as coming to terms with the brutality of the passage of time and the fact that next year I will be an upperclassman myself and be called upon to explain to the freshmen what LDOC is.