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The end of the year (as I know it)

And so here we are, from fall to spring. The winter is gone, the grass is once again green and, for all of us, the academic year is coming to a close. As a freshman, it’s really hard to believe that I’ve been here for three trimesters. I’ve weathered every type of weather, academic challenges, emotional hardships and navigating an entirely new country with all its idiosyncrasies and shifts in culture. It was the first time I really had to be an adult, managing my own finances and schedule and food and exercise and health and academics and extracurriculars and God knows what else. It was a year of ups and downs and sideways movements I don’t quite understand. It was the best year of my life, and it has been such a blur as Carleton zooms by, and I am still trying to catch up. 

Fall was a time of sheer confusion and a lot of emotion. The long week of International Student Orientation bled into the longer week of New Student Week, which bled into the ten weeks of academic work. I biked around everywhere and dressed about as fashionably as someone who had only worn a uniform for the past decade could be expected to dress. I could go anywhere and do anything. Talk to professors so much smarter than I could ever imagine and pick at their immense stores of wisdom and insight. Talk to upperclassmen who had become so familiar with all of Carleton’s quirks and happenings that it was as though they had grown up here all their lives. Be by myself as I sped along the roads well into the night, appreciating the dark sacred nights and beauty of the skies and nature. I made friends with the people on first Goodhue, my ISO groups, and some people from my class. I fell in love. 

It was not without struggle. All these requirements and constant bombardment of information, emails and events I felt I had to make time for. Having any sort of free time was a Sisyphean task that left me scrounging for any allowance of enjoying doing nothing. Despite being such a small liberal arts college, it felt so vast, threatening to swallow me whole as I tried to hold on for dear life. The nights studying with my closest friends in the Libe and desperately trying to finish my mounting piles of work that began to stack themselves precariously on my mental desk were some of the most stressful moments I’ve had, but those moments too passed like tears in rain. Every tired jump into bed felt as though I had truly fought the day, and now was held in the loving embrace of sleep until I had to repeat it again the next day and the one after that and so on. 

Winter was the true test of my determination. Goodhue, oh Goodhue, set ever so far away from any relevant place on campus. Each morning I would wake up and drag myself to the window and be met only with sheets upon sheets of pristine white. I would put on seemingly endless layers of cloth and padding to not lose all feeling in my tired limbs. I slipped and fell into the abyssal white, wheezing and hauling myself to my knees each and every time. I had never weathered the storms I found here before. The havoc they wrought to my daily travel, planning each moment around how difficult the journey to and from places would be given the unforgiving snow became the norm. I spent much time inside, staring out and hoping that the weather would let up for just a moment, so I could once again see the blue skies. 

It is a burden that was shared by everyone I met. Our collective lamentation gave me some measure of precious warmth that I tried to carry with me in my travels. I grew even closer to my friends during this time. I switched jobs. I fell deeper in love. I found new passions to stoke fires in my heart, whirling across the Weitz Dance Studio and Cowling as I tried to learn to dance. I spent more time contemplating what I actually wanted to do with my life. The hectic humdrum of adjustment was coming to a close, the beautiful honeymoon high of the acceptance into this elite institution fading. My life up to this point has not been easy, and for the first time in a long time I felt as though I could take a breath and just feel. I spent as much time in my own head as I did doing homework, sometimes to my own detriment. Ironic, isn’t it? All the running and moving and fast-paced work of Carleton was dragging me along, yet it was the first time I could truly examine who and what I am. I tried to reconcile my emotional and mental health with my overwhelming fear of missing out and need to be present at everything lest I miss something that could’ve changed my life. I still don’t know where I fit in, amidst this twisting and shifting kaleidoscope of identities, goals, dreams and realities. I don’t know if I’ll ever know. 

Spring break came and all was right in the world. I went to New York. I saw artworks I had only ever been privileged enough to see as low quality images on the internet. I came face-to-face with “A Starry Night” by Van Gogh, and all my dreams and artistic ambitions were made real as I could do nothing but stand transfixed by its sheer beauty. I shared time and meals with the person I love, before moving back to Goodhue for the final time. 

Spring Term was the most frantic dance of the three. New responsibilities, old responsibilities, complications and conundrums and emotions all spiraling into a vortex that once again felt destructive and insurmountable. But I’m still here. Somehow, some way, I made it all this way. So did my friends, and their friends and all of us. We made it. We’re here at the end of this year, ready for it to end, and to welcome the blessed sunlight of summer as we take ample time to lay our weary heads in comfort until the next time we are called to do it all over again. 

No matter how hard things have been at times, how difficult it was to carry on and move forward, I wouldn’t have given up a second of this past year for anything in the world. The friends I’ve made, the memories I hold close to my heart, the person I am becoming are aspects of my life at Carleton that have made the bad times bearable and the good times all that much sweeter. My first year at Carleton has been a blur, and in a way I wish that I had more time to etch each moment into perfect memory, but maybe that’s why the moments that I do remember shine so brightly. Their warmth shelters me from even the coldest winds that Minnesota is able to conjure. 

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