What is one of the main reasons high school seniors say they cannot wait to get to college? The sweetness of independence, more than anything they have previously experienced. Since coming to college, I have seen young men and women delight in defining themselves, but I have also seen them fidget in discomfort when left alone. How can people go to school 100, even 1,000, miles away from home and still have a serious issue with going to the library alone or walking from Bartley to Tolentine without someone on the other line? It is amazing how some college students who drool over the thought of independence have yet to take a bite.
I believe most mothers of the world endorse adherence to the buddy system, which involves always having another person with you when you venture into unknown realms. I am sure everyone’s mother hoped he or she would have buddies to go places with when in college, but I am also certain even the worrywarts think it is healthy to veer away from the buddy at your side. I think it is great to have a buddy – to have someone to walk with from here to there, to have someone to go to the gym with, to have someone to talk on the phone with while you’re waiting for class or, heaven forbid, sitting alone at a table for a maximum five minutes while your other buddy contemplates the vastness of the food selection at the Pit – but I think it is sad and unhealthy to need a buddy.
Growing up, I was never one of those kids who had to have someone sleep over every night of the weekend. First of all, my parents would not have stood for it, and second of all, even at a young age, I had no qualms with entertaining myself. I love hanging out with friends just as much as super-social Sally, but I cannot understand people who do not need – want – some time to themselves. Why is it that people only want to go to boot camp class if someone else will go with them? Why do girls travel in packs to the bathroom? Why do people feel lost and vulnerable when they forget their cell phones for a day?
On the first day of class, my new psychology professor was perplexed by the younger generation’s seemingly obsessive relationships with electronic confidantes – cell phones. He told the class that times have certainly changed since he first began teaching in the 1970s. Apparently, there is a commonality immediately exercised by students upon their exits from class each day. In the ’70s, students rushed down the steep steps of Tolentine, risking their necks in the pursuit of fresh air, only to acquire the freedom to pollute it with smoke puffed out of their youthful, yet withering, lungs. Though the urge to smoke a cigarette between classes is still surprisingly prevalent, there is now a behavior of greater dominance.
As my professor voiced his observations of the addiction students have to their cell phones, I noticed his tone was marinated in a sarcastic humor and seasoned with a pinch of pity. He has been conditioned to expect students to rummage in their pockets or bags for their phones the second they are released from class. They flip them, slide them, twist them, press them, poke them and command them in order to hear the latest voicemail, view the list of missed calls and read the lengthy text message that would have been so much better communicated in a voicemail or even in person. Nevertheless, the sender evidently thought if he or she sent a text message rather than actually calling, the receiver might be able to get the message while still in class and, in an exercise of sheer clandestine skill, send a reply from behind a strategically propped-up binder or textbook. When I walked out of my class the other day, I caught my fingers in the act of perusing through my bag to find my little friend. I stole a sidelong glance at my classmates. With the same pitiful humor that had characterized my professor’s voice, I smiled to myself as I realized everyone was doing exactly what he predicted – flip, slide, twist, press, poke, command. I rapidly pulled my hand out of my bag, as if there were something living inside that might tear it off and gobble it whole.
College is about independence. Don’t be fooled into thinking there is nothing more to it than having the autonomy to down ridiculous quantities of beverages and not needing to worry about stumbling through the front door and waking up the house at some unheard of hour of the morning. College is about discovering who you are and becoming comfortable and happy to spend time with that person. It is about acquiring self-assurance and the confidence to walk in whichever direction your bliss blows, regardless of whether or not there is a buddy beside you or a pink RAZR in your pocket.
Georgie Hunt is a sophomore English major from Pomfret, Conn. She can be reached at [email protected]