If You're Here, You May Be There Already

Reconstructing Your Collegiate Self Can Make You Forget What Was Special Before

Even if I had known then what I know now, I think I still would have done pretty much everything the same.

You all should know this comes from a Woman (yes, we're "women" now, "girls" no longer) whose first year was defined by aimless academics, pseudo-friendships and failed relationships as much as by anything else.

As a first-year I did the things I thought older, mature people did. It's been so long I hardly remember the alterations I effected from the high school me, but I'm sure at the time they seemed radical. There would be no more quick runs in parents' stationwagons to Strathmore Bagels during free periods, no more 90210, no more endless phone calls to friends who lived 20 feet away, no more mall.

A public school kid form the 'burbs of Long Island, I found these strong statements indeed.

College provided what seemed an ideal opportunity to start over. I began hanging out with people I thought had it together. I wanted to be like them. I thought they were cool--almost too cool for me, so I worked hard to catch up.


There was a guy. I won't name names because he, like most of my friends (who, nonetheless, I won't spare), could probably think of ways he'd rather earn his Harvard fame.

He lived upstairs. In my entry. In my teensy-tiny little dorm (Lionel--in size, the premature baby of the Yard).

You probably can guess where this is going, but for the nosiest among you, we met at our proctor's "Hi there, I'm..." meeting the day after we moved in. We started chatting about New York. Then it was, more dangerously, about life--over brandy.

Through the next few weeks we went rounds over whether our relationship was really a relationship and whether we wanted it to be. Though sometimes it was calculated, we legitimately couldn't help but pass by each other's rooms far too often. Stakes escalated quickly.

We'd sit in his room listening to opera and talking about art auctions, though it was unclear to both of us whether we were just wasting our time. He'd tell me about great wines, and I'd listen because I didn't know he was a poser, and I didn't know that's what I was trying to be.

More than I liked this guy, I wanted to be like him, to sound and talk and think like him and impress the people I had thought of as silly suburbanites--people like me.

This "relationship" lasted only as long as it took for me to realize that, as much as I liked the sound of our conversations, I didn't really like having them. So we stopped, and at about that time I came across someone with whom interacting put a little less strain on my psyche. He liked snuggling and Snoopy. I shifted into domestic mode, but miscalculated.

Two things were wrong: he didn't want to be domestic and I didn't want to be domesticwith him.

Rounds three and four were much the same,promising at first but ultimately disappointments.I was trying too hard to find in my first yearwhat lots of people don't find ever.

Of course, at the time I didn't realize thismight be unrealistic. It seemed to make sense thatI could find at least one--I don't know what tosay..."special friend?"--among thousands of themost interesting 18 years-olds on earth.

I did find one, later, long after I stoppedtrying or caring. Meanwhile, it was the Lionel B.crew, daft as they collectively were, that kept meentertained while I tried to figure out what thehell I was doing at Harvard.