I’ve played enough Little League baseball to know the terror and exhilaration of that sprint from third to home. To be clear, I was, by most societal and colloquial standards of “good”, not good at baseball. I didn’t get to make that run very often. But every once in a while, over the duration of eight years of spitting sunflower seeds and kicking grass in the outfield, I would get hit and make it to first (please note: I didn’t usually get a hit, but instead got hit by the ball every so often and hobbled over to first base). And some of those times, I would make it to third. When you run home, you forget the aches from a long game and tune out the moms cheering on their cold steel bleachers; it’s just you and home plate. I always thought sliding was dumb until I did it myself; it’s the pared-down primal response to just needing to touch the base and be done.
To put an end to my first year at Hopkins, I had three finals lined up on the last three days. History of Modern Medicine on Monday, Intro to Social Psych on Tuesday, and Physics II looming on Wednesday. And then, done. I could already see the green grass paradise on the other side of Physics. But I had some significant checkpoints to hit before I could celebrate the end of my freshman year just yet.
To be honest, there was something kind of cool about the finals grind. It was almost like a big sports game everyone was taking part in. And let me be clear: I did not enjoy finals, due to my being sane and such. But the atmosphere was something I’ve never experienced before, and it was kind of an honor to be a part of it. Going to the library and finding myself a cubicle to buckle down in for the day as the rest of the school surrounded you in focused silence was something powerful. Messing up my sleep cycle temporarily to cram the last few history lectures or watch a couple more flux problem solutions carried with it some sort of scholastic gravitas, like I was on a mission. And something felt distinctly satisfying after trudging back from hours of practice problems and crawling into bed late at night.
The nights before history and social psych weren’t all too exciting. The finals were both at 9am, and I only function well when I’m well rested. So I ended up going to sleep pretty early for those two. But physics, which I was most scared about, was at 2pm on a Wednesday. So the plan we came up with was to stay up as long as we needed the night before and then sleep in till like 1. And that’s exactly what happened.
Tuesday night, we found a little corner in the Brody atrium with a table, a TV to connect our laptops to, and two whiteboards. We sat around the table, put up past tests on the big screen, and got to work, slammed out iced coffees onto the table (I’m not even a coffee person, it’s just what finals do to me) and got to work on the whiteboards. The hours slipped by, and before we knew it it was around 5am. At this point, most people in the atrium were physics people, because it was one of the last finals schedules. It got easier and easier to get distracted, until there was no more electricity OR magnetism that could fit into our heads for the night. I fell asleep to sunlight.
7 or so hours later, I hopped out of bed, hit the showers, and looked over some last-minute thin film equations before walking over to Remsen Hall for the impending doom that was physics. We took our seats in the old wood-plastic desks, wrote our names and some oath things on the little blue books, and cracked bad jokes to the tune of nervous laughter. You may begin, the TA seemed to taunt.
It wasn’t too bad! I mean it was hard and all, but this is one of those tests with a ridiculously low average where you’re just trying to get as many points possible. Hey, one of the questions was like an example I reviewed in bed that morning! Dope.
A little before 5pm, I clicked my pen, slid my calculator into my bag, tapped my test and test book on my desk, and handed them in. And it was one of the greatest feelings on earth. “What Time is it” from High School Musical was blaring in my head. ITS SUMMERTIME.
The newfound freedom was incredible. I just walked around alone in the sunlight for a bit before getting some food. The sunlight seemed brighter, the colors were more vibrant, the food was more savory. Life was good.
But it was when I was packing the next morning that it actually hit me. Freshman year was over. People told me it would go fast, but like this? It felt like it was just yesterday when I was pretending to be texting while cheating glances at the campus map on my phone or carrying a slip in my pocket with the day’s classes and room numbers. But then I thought about all the things that had happened since then, and suddenly freshman year seemed like an eternity long. Every memory made and person met and bite eaten and step taken snapped back to me at once. Every bus ride and club meeting, every response paper and concert. Sure, freshman year went fast in one sense. But I don’t think I missed it either. I tucked it away with my bedsheets and stationary, neatly folded and packed up to make space for next year’s tote of memories to be made. Sliding into home plate brings a flash of euphoria and contentment, but after the dust settles you just want to do it again.