“I haven’t been this scared in a long time
And I’m so unprepared so here’s your valentine
Bouquet of clumsy words, a simple melody
This world’s an ugly place, but you’re so beautiful to me.”
– Blink 182, “Going Away to College”
Four years ago, “Going Away to College” seemed like poetry. I was preparing to leave home and move to the other side of the country. I was going from a school where I knew everyone (not hard when your graduating class is nineteen) to a school where I didn’t know a soul. More than just that, though, I was leaving a place where I finally had hit my stride, earned some recognition, and made some friends; once I left, I was hitting the “reset” button.
Tonight, I’ve got Blink blaring on my speakers, and it might as well be 2005. Tomorrow, I’m moving to a foreign country. I’m leaving behind me all the things it took me four frustrating and occasionally painful years to build: a group of friends with whom I felt comfortable and appreciated, an academic space where I felt I had something to contribute, and a university community where I had carved out a meaningful niche for myself. I know practically nothing about my program at Oxford; I can’t even pronounce my college’s name (Is there really a silent “c” in “Worcester”?), much less tell anyone who I’m living with, what I’m learning about, or how I’m going to spend my time.
And yet, despite it all, this whole thing feels a little anticlimactic. Partially, it’s the send-off. Four years ago, I stayed up all night with my friends, listening to our favorite songs, watching our favorite movies, and – at least for me – staring at the horizon hoping the sun would never rise. I’ve had some nice goodbyes with bandies tonight, but generally, it’s hard for me to get really emotional when I shouldn’t even be at Princeton. I had my tearful goodbyes at graduation, and I’ve decided to leave it there. I’m counting the hours until my flight.
Mostly, though, it’s nice for me to reflect on what a difference four years makes. There is, objectively, no reason for me not to be scared shitless tonight, like I was four years ago. But I’m not, and it’s a relief. I’ve spent the last two weeks hating the fact that I’m “old” and feeling like the best times are behind me. But for once, I am loving having a bit of maturity. Somehow, I just know this isn’t going to be a repeat of freshman year, and, despite the inevitably difficulties, that I’ll hit my stride at Oxford a lot sooner. I haven’t been this scared in a long time, sure, but I also haven’t been this excited.