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Freshman Year of College - A Free Spirit's Beginning

This past week, yours truly ran programming at work for incoming freshman and students on the campus of NYU. The program was nothing too much - basketball, volleyball, and a shootout challenge. The purpose was to merely give the new students a way to not only meet other new students, but to become familiar with the athletic facility and to unwind after a week of adjustment. 

As a college professional, working on a campus in many ways is interesting as you always find yourself comparing your college experience to that of the students and young adults you are serving and mentoring along the way. By creating and offering programming for these new faces this semester, I couldn't help but notice the faces and actions of many of these eighteen, (some) seventeen, and the (occasional) genius sixteen year old, and wonder how much life has changed since my days as a college freshman. Or really, how little has changed.

Intensifying those feelings even more are the mere fact that this past week of being around freshman made me realize that ten years ago was indeed my very first week as a college freshman. Just like the kids I provided programming for and have already begun to help make their four years of college the best experience possible, I too was bright eyed, naive, confused, and well...let's just call it for what it is, stupid. 

Ten years ago yours truly stepped onto the campus of Cazenovia College. A city-born and city-raised eighteen year old from New York City, was dropped off in the middle of a small village in central New York. Gone were the ways I knew of. Fast pace. 24 hour service. Diversity. And of course, just that sheer NYC moxy that was second-nature. 

For me, the first week, really, the first month of college was a rough transition into understanding and getting used to life without those aspects in my life. For the life of me I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that there were people from places where there were cows; places where their graduation class was the size of one of my High School classes; places that only had one traffic light; or a place where I pretty much became their first friend of color. I was told that a few times in my four years of college. 

Ultimately, my freshman experience was a total culture shock and really was the beginning of a learning experience that helped mold me today. I know, cue the violin music...but really, I felt like there were many experiences from my freshman year that were necessary for me to grow as a person. 

And here I am, ten years later, and I look back on pictures, facebook profiles of friends, the memories of the stupid things I did, the situations I handled poorly, the pursued relationships that went no where, and the countless hours of nothingness and unproductive-ness while bonding with others in the dorms, and I honestly wouldn't trade it for anything. 

There is a certain naive and fearless attitude one has during that year. Freshman year. A feeling of freedom, self-pursuit, and a built-in trial-and-error pass that allows us to explore all that there is.

I saw it last week. And I continue to see it everyday as Freshman come into my building and the select few that come into my office.

Do I want to go back in time to relive my freshman year? No thanks. Eating Ramen, sleeping on a twin bed, sharing a 14x14 room with another person and a bathroom with thirty others doesn't seem all that fun anymore.

Hmmm...maybe the mid-day naps are enticing. 

But there is something special and different about that freshman year of college. Something that will never be duplicated in your life again. There is just that something that is really unique about how clueless a person can be, and the eventual harnessing of a free spirit in the early stages of adulthood.

For me, that happened 10 years ago. 

For you, maybe it was more recent, or possibly a bit later. And for others, it's yet to come. 

However, one thing is for sure, freshman year of college is unique and can never be duplicated - ever - in your lifetime. 

Enjoy it. And for those in the position to help add to that experience for a young freshman, be sure to do so. Because we all know, they'll definitely need all of the advice they can digest.

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Pondering Picture #81

An establishment cannot uphold systemic injustice, and attempt to condemn it, simultaneously.

My prayers (and of course my thoughts...so many thoughts) are with Charlottesville, Virgina, and the many people of color who have endured through these scenes and images over the course of history.