Where I'm Going, Where I've Been

    Let me say before I start this that everyone says they grew “so much” over each semester when it’s over. I know everyone thinks they have had some big epiphany that is going to change the course of their life and make all their other semesters different. While I don’t necessarily think that people change as much as they claim to each semester, I think each of us do learn and grow as we encounter new challenges and experiences. 

However, this semester was unique for me — I really did change a large part of my life. I went from being a completely online student to an in-person one, attending three in-person classes and actually getting to see all my classmates and the professor. While I still did one online class, I also went from spending the majority of my day looking at a computer screen in my bedroom to being around other people at school most of the day. I was involved in one organization (sorta) at my old school, and now at Oswego, I’m extremely active in two different ones. My life changed dramatically by being surrounded by a community of other students and interacting with them day to day. My social circle expanded exponentially, my studying habits evolved, and my entire routine changed. I developed friends, crushes, and enemies all in the span of a few months, and got to learn so much more about the English & Creative Writing program that I didn’t know before. With all these new elements in my life, I really have learned a lot. In order to fully address everything, I am going to divide this piece into different sections in order to fully talk about each part of my life that changed.

Routine

    The first thing I think that changed the most was my routine. Before this, I didn’t even really have a routine. The only thing that sort of guided my days was either doctor appointments and my dog’s walking schedule. I just really let the days take me where things went and often had no set sleeping schedule. 

    Looking back, it wasn’t healthy for my growth. Having the responsibility to stick to my school schedule and show up to classes, along with getting out and having to organize myself every day, helped me tremendously in organizing and prioritizing things in my life. A routine helps you gain perspective about what matters to you in the day. 

The one thing I did struggle with a lot was having things due consistently by the time class started and during the week when most things for my online classes were due on Sunday or Friday night, and I had the whole week to decide when to work on things. The flexibility of online school was great for working on homework and being able to focus on things whenever I wanted to, but at the same time, developing the skills to get things done on tighter deadlines is a skill I needed.

Also on the subject of routine, it influenced how much time I paid to all the other categories in this list and how my relationships with others changed.

Family

    I went from seeing my parents constantly to having a lot more space between us. This is something I absolutely needed. Most people who are commuters and live at home know that your relationship with your family can be a lot different to those who live on campus or in off-campus apartments. One of the things I struggled with ever since middle school was my relationship with my parents. As an only child who doesn’t have any extended family living in the area, I often felt too close and isolated from my family at the same time. On top of that, having two parents who frequently didn’t get along and used you in order to further their own goals was overwhelming to go through. 

    College, even with being a commuter, provides an opportunity to begin to develop independence that allows you to pull away from the drama in your home. My relationship with each of my parents and them as a whole improved because I just did not feel the need to interact with the petty or annoying things they did as much, as I was more secure in what I was doing. My parents, who are in the midst of a divorce, I have realized are two very dramatic people who do not have enough perspective on their own lives in order to understand what is important and what it is not. Being at home all the time, I had begun to fall into the same patterns. With nothing else to focus on, everything was magnified. Now that I have somewhere to be away from them and focus on myself, yet still return and have a more comfortable relationship that includes distance, things are better. 

    Extended family, though, is something I have really begun to see as valuable. My cousin, John, came here in the Fall semester of 2017. John and I did not know each other well growing up and didn’t see each other often because he lived on Long Island. When I found out he was transferring here, I saw an opportunity and reached out to him to build a relationship with a cousin who was close to my age and going to be living close to me. Now, I consider John to be the big brother I always wanted as a kid. We have inside jokes, hang out together, and comfort each other when things go wrong. While sometimes we get on each other’s nerves or have disagreements like all real siblings have, we are extremely close and I now have a valuable relationship with my family.

Social

    This is probably the one that expanded for me dramatically, even to the point where a friend asked if I was “living in a CW show”. As you can, maybe, guess, online school doesn’t really offer opportunities for making or developing friendships. You are constantly isolated from the community on campus, and while it helps you focus on the coursework, you can also get terribly lonely if you don’t have a friend group otherwise. As an estimation of how much different my social circle became, I went from 10 people seeing my Snapchat story to 43, and 30ish Instagram followers to 120ish now. While social media is not a reliable counter of actual social progress, I use it to show how I had begun to branch out.

    A lot of people who commute seem to have a problem with making friends at college. Many people make friends through the people in their dorms because of that bond of living together, whereas commuters don’t have that. Instead, we have to go out and make a community of our own. This is something I highly valued; I wasn’t going to waste a semester being friendless and isolated again. In order to do this, I went to parties when I was invited, connected with people in my classes through group chats or simply reaching out to them when I saw them around campus, and joining clubs. Joining Her Campus, a community of other women writers who were passionate about connecting our writing to each other, was something that really opened up a lot for me. I found a group of ladies who cared about each other and supported each other, even through non-writing endeavors. While I had considered joining a sorority at the beginning of the semester, I almost feel like I had joined a different kind of one with Her Campus.

    In terms of other friendships though, one of the most valuable ones I found was in my Sophomore Seminar-Genre class. This class, taught by Sarah Berry, was one of the best classes I have ever been a part of because of these people. We formed a group chat at the beginning of the year in order to help each other with the work, and through this, we connected with one another. By the end of the semester, we’d bought our teacher an Edgar Allen Poe Funko Pop (go up to room 311 in MCC if you want to see him in the window!) together, recreated The Last Supper, and brought in food for an amazing last class Christmas Party. Our group chat still goes strong with memes and a few of us have hung out outside of class together. 

In my Intermediate Fiction Writing course, I also found a group of wonderful writers who I became friends with over the semester. At the beginning of the year, I had come in to the second class to find a table that I had been sitting at with two other people to be now filled with five, one spot remaining for me. I remember feeling so incredibly anxious because everyone at that table knew each other and I just...didn’t, obviously. However, this group of people welcomed me in and validated not only my writing, but the friendship we all began developing. Bob O’Connor’s frequent sex metaphors for everything in our class helped too, and is another class I will never forget. 

I also remembered how high the highs and low the lows of relationships of all types can be. I made an enemy in one of my English classes for correcting her when we’d gone to parties before, gained a best friend and lost her all within the 3 ½ months we knew each other, found myself catching feelings for some people and getting promptly rejected, trying to help people I loved discover themselves, misjudging people and then realizing how valuable they were, and making out with people from the bar in parking lots. While there are some things I regret doing, there is a lot that I became grateful to experience with others. In high school, I hated coming to school because I didn’t feel like I had anyone there to see who cared about me. Now in college, a part of me actually dreaded the semester ending because all the wonderful people I had made friends with would be leaving for a month or worse -- graduating! So much had begun to happen with me and the people around me that I started actually journaling it all, and to that end, I filled up 117 pages of my journal with my daily exploits. After this, I learned how much of an ambivert I am -- that I like being around people but also need my own time to myself. 

More than that, though, I am so incredibly thankful for the people who came into my life this semester. I know not all of them may feel the same way about me, but every single person in this world can teach us something about ourselves and we can do the same for them. All in all, I learned how valuable the world of people is out there.

Education

    This might be the shortest, since many of the skills and interior exploration of academia is actually something that online schooling can prepare one well for. In terms of how I began to view my education differently, I actually began to care and bond more with the professors within the department. Learning about what is valued in the English department, who is working in it, and what the goals are overall for students helped me define more of what I wanted out of English specifically. I started the semester a little burned out with English, or well, the part of English that is constantly analyzing works. In getting to know the professors, I learned more about how you can use that interpretation in so many different ways to understand not only the literature, but the self and how we relate to the world around us. What I am getting out of my education and where I want to go with it also became more defined. Before this, I was not considering graduate school, and now I can’t say I’ve ruled it out. I have also been able to more aptly define where I want to go career-wise, which is into Publishing or Editing. The professional connections within the program are something I value much more now, from both professors and students. 

Self

    Obviously, after reading all this, you might be wondering how I changed. Through all of this, school, family, routine, and social, I began to look at who I was and how I was presenting myself more and more. Sitting in my creative writing class, I often found myself listening to much of what the professor was saying and relating it back to my own life. While we don’t live within perfect stories, I believe we all have a story of our own and we decide how we, as the protagonists of it, want to lead it. While I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs of my own life philosophy or specific lessons I learned, one thing I really honed in on was that we can never outrun ourselves. As much as we can look externally and document what we see or feel, if we can’t be emotionally available to ourselves about what the moments of our lives mean, we’ll never fully get who we’re supposed to be. I watched a few different people during this semester, some close to me and some not, try to outrun themselves. All of them were unsuccessful, at least from where I sat. The things we do and who we are meant to be catch up to us, in the same way that if things are meant to be, they will fall into place that way. Often, by trying to hide, conceal, or destroy who we are, we simply put off the inevitable of what is meant to happen for us and any happiness that comes from that. This is a lesson I’m still trying to teach myself, as hard to swallow pills about our lives are hard to swallow for a reason.

    In closing, I’ll leave you with this quote from my artist of the decade, Lana Del Rey, that summed up what I’ve learned about myself and in general this semester: “But one day I woke up like, ‘Maybe I’ll do it differently.’ It turns out everywhere you go you take yourself.”