The independent news organization of Duke University

Freshman year is meant to suck

My 30-day trial run of being an adult has been a mixed bag of emotions. For the most part, I feel strange. Finally being on the campus that I was chasing my entire senior year feels strange. Being inundated with so many academic opportunities and no sense of direction without having my dog as solace is an uncomfortable purgatory. Only being in rooms with people who are either as smart as you or smarter than you toes the line between nauseating and liberating. I keep saying that I’ll feel better in a couple of days, yet I don’t know if I will. 

But that’s the point.

I could be wrong, I’ve only been here for about two weeks, but I think being uncomfortable right now is good. Great even. Let me explain.

For 30 days, I’ve been without the safety blankets of my room, my dog, my family, my car (R.I.P.) and, most importantly, my always accessible bathroom. And somehow, against all anxiety-ridden logic, I’m still alive. It’s reassuring in a weird way. Like every other freshman, my brain has remembered how to adapt. It’s relearned how to make new friends and how to bear being asked for the seventieth time, “What’s your major?”. 

In the past 30 days, I’ve learned how to set boundaries, the best places to call my mom, where good coffee hides and how loud my headphones have to be to drown out the AC in my room. I’ve met some people I’ve waited my entire life to meet and some others who I would rather not meet again. I’ve made conversations awkward and laughed until my stomach hurt. I’ve missed the C1 and got to pet a puppy that lives next door. I’ve gotten eaten alive by mosquitoes and made a professor laugh.

 Essentially, the good stuff makes the bad stuff worth it — eloquent, I know. I think my pain in being uncomfortable is a sign I’m figuring myself out and occasionally tripping on my fear of the unknown on the way there. But it’s hard to feel okay about it sometimes. 

So, I try to focus on that good stuff. Like how the Biddle Music Building is peaceful at night. How the sun’s blush creeps across the sky at 7 p.m. on Baldwin Quad and how strangers grin at me in hallways. How good Marketplace tacos taste and how special meeting your people feels. There’s an undercurrent of blind faith that life will be good here, and my future self will thank me for getting into Duke.

Speaking of her, I keep wondering if I’m going to end up with a different haircut when I graduate. Or perhaps a new career path, favorite color or artist. Maybe a new place I want to retire in or a new passion I can’t imagine my life without. I’m excited to grow into her — whoever she turns out to be. I look forward to having to grapple with my identity and having to re-evaluate my moral code monthly. I look forward to failing at living in an apartment and understanding what true friendships can be. I can’t wait to experience womanhood in all its ugly joyous glory. And I’m sure it’s not going to be pretty. These next four years promise tears, face-tearing smiles, regret, all-consuming fear, love and failure.

It’s not going to be perfect, but is college meant to be the best four years of your life? To be honest, dreading a self-inflicted 60-ish-year decline after college is a really depressing way to live. Maybe college is simply meant to be a launching pad for a happier future. It’s meant to be a really expensive sandbox that conditions us to fall down and get back up before the asphalt of “real life” kicks our butts.

So, in the next few months, I’m not going to demand from myself that I join 12 labs and save the world, but instead, fall down, get back up and try again. I’m going to try to not get lost on the 20-minute walk to Trent Hall. I’m going to try not to cry every time I realize my dog doesn’t understand that I’m coming back. I’m going to lose my voice at basketball games, and I’m going to be late for my classes. I’m going to try to make the person who I was in high school look small in comparison to the person who I’m going to be. 

Here’s to the many late nights and caffeine-addled sobs that I’m fated to endure. Here’s to failing to take care of an ill-fated dorm plant and smiling at my phone. Here’s to falling in love with learning and people and new songs. Here’s to our futures here past those first 30 days.

Susan Chemmanoor is a Trinity first-year. Her column typically runs on alternate Fridays. 

Susan Chemmanoor

Susan is a freshman in Trinity. Her columns run on alternate Fridays.


Share and discuss “Freshman year is meant to suck” on social media.