This past weekend, I moved into my big-girl apartment, and it was weird. Good-weird, but still weird. Everything about the Varsity is next-level incredible – the view, ample closet space, the view, in-unit washer and dryer, THE VIEW, a dishwasher to call my own (the view). Plus, I get to share the place with my three favorite humans. (YEP, get pumped for two more years of my roommate-crush gushing.)
But the move-in experience itself was strangely cold. While Lauren, Caroline, and Liz were still enjoying their summers much too far away from yours truly, I was there bright and early on Saturday morning, with only my parents, two cars’ worth of stuff, and a childlike sense of wonder to my name. That wonder faded as the hours of schlepping, cleaning, unpacking, organizing, and decorating stretched on. I don’t want to say that something was ~missing~ from the experience (except my best friends), because all of my junk magically made it to the Hop (hardy har har). But I was nostalgic for something that I never thought I’d look back on with wistfulness. And that, invisible (imagined?) readers, is the crazy, cramped, incredible entity known to the layperson as “dorm life.”
Moving into a dorm is like the first day of summer camp. (Or so more adventurous friends/popular movies have led me to believe. I’m mildly allergic to the great outdoors.) Heavily structured, but unavoidably hectic. Cramped and sweaty. A mosaic of flustered parents, peppy staff members, and underclassmen in full panic-mode after realizing that an absolutely crucial set of plastic drawers just isn’t going to squeeze under the bed. (No? Just me?) At the time, I’m sure I couldn’t wait for it to be over. But looking back, it has taken on the charming glow that accompanies memories you weren’t truly valuing while in the moment. In fact, all memories I made while living in AMR II and Charles Commons now have the same twinge of wistful fondness, from the good, to the bad, to the plain ol’ mundane.
Dorm life is like this weird purgatory between your childhood home and the real world. There’s a taste of freedom and independence in the air – you’re living without Mom and Dad! There are members of the opposite gender right next door! There are no curfews or bedtimes, no one to wake you up in the morning in case you sleep through your alarm. You are the total and complete master of how you spend your time. However, there are convenient, parent-esque buffers. RAs for your roommate disputes, security guards to keep you safe, a number to call when the drain is clogged or a light bulb burns out. And in those moments, the illusion is shattered, and you see the tiny man behind the curtain. You’re never truly on your own. Sure, supervision is comparatively lax, but it’s there, especially when you need it.
Living in the Varsity, I feel utterly unsupervised. Which, at first, is absolutely intoxicating and exciting and new. But let me tell you, nothing makes you feel more like an infant unprepared for real life than trying to set up your own cable box. (Why are there five remotes? Why is there picture but no sound on even-numbered channels? Omg the screen is blue WHY IS THE SCREEN BLUE. **Calls Dad**) Of course, I’m still safely protected from the real world for two more years thanks to the security blanket that is Hopkins. But this move is the first time I’ve actually felt adult-ness steadily inching closer. It’s something I, like everyone else, have wished for since I was 13. But 13-year-old Allison really expected 19-year-old Allison to have more of her life together. Now I’m holding onto my stuffed animals for dear life.
All theatrics aside, saying goodbye to dorm life is just another reminder that my time at Hopkins is so unbelievably finite. When the going gets tough (read: midterms), I know I’m guilty of wishing that limited time away to make room for bigger and better things. With each sentence of this post, I’m painfully reminded of one of my favorite quotes from The Office: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” I feel you, Andy. Here I am, a junior living in an apartment that is literally bigger and better, wishing I could go back in time and tell underclassman Allison to have a bit more fun and stress a little less.
Instead I direct that advice to all of you incoming freshmen who are lucky enough to be starting your Hopkins journey today. Take the time to slow down and savor all of the moments that seem ordinary. They won’t be ordinary for long.