Ah, freshman year. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Everything was shiny and new except for when it was terrifying and made you sob alone in your dorm room while you examined that newly deposited tire of fat around your waistline. The days flew by except for those that felt like the equivalent of waiting for paint to dry in a tropical rainforest. You laughed, you cried, you drank, you vomited, you ate. You lived, laughed, and loved – and hopefully gained the sense to throw away your wall decal that said the same thing. And then, almost bizarrely, you ended up back at home (probably). And it felt instantly familiar but also slightly like another universe where everything was about 90% the same as it was before and that near-correctness was almost more discombobulating than if 90% had just been straight up different. Does that make any sense? Well, guess what, it doesn’t have to. Because what I’m about to say make even less sense.
The summer after your freshman year is actually going to be your best summer.
Wait- wait! Don’t click the little red button in the corner! I know it seems like a ridiculous statement, but I have my reasons.
Freshman year summer is, for many of you, going to be your “last” summer. Sure, you still technically have three summers (really two, because there’s a very real chance the summer after senior year is spent filling out 401K paperwork for your first real job or frantically filling out applications and telling your dad you’ve been “networking”) left, but those summers are just straight-up lies. You’ll spend them either interning, researching, taking a class, or prepping for the MCAT, LSAT, GRE, etc. You will be older, burdened by your potential future. But at 18 or 19? It’s probably the last time you’ll have some semblance of flexibility and freedom.
Sure, you’re probably working a retail job or waitressing, but let’s get real, it’s not life or death. You’re doing it to earn some money and you could give a crap about getting a reference from your manager who magically always seems to be on a smoke break when you actually need help with something. You feel no qualms about switching shifts with another waitress when your friends decide to have an impromptu beach day. You give literally zero you-know-whats about showing up hungover and barfing in the employee bathroom.
What’s that? No, you’re right. The summer when you’re first 21 is a pretty good summer, too. But it’s also spent trying to find someone’s younger sibling to drive you to the nearest bar two towns over or even just trying to find enough people still left in town to go with you. See, a lot of your friends just won’t come back home other summers. They’ll be off in distant cities gaining work or post-grad experience (or, in the case of your finance-major-friends, earning $20,0000 for two months worth of interning and making you cry). You’ll either be gone too or drinking white wine with your mom who tends to cut you off after two glasses. Summer after freshman year is generally the last time you’ll have all your hometown friends in one place ever again.
And the magical thing about it? You aren’t even sick of them! College has changed you all and it’s exciting to hear your friends new stories. You’re relieved to be back in familiar company. It’s comfortable and comforting. You haven’t even realized yet that you don’t actually like some of these people and were only friends with them due to the fact that you were locked in a building together for eight hours a day, fifteen years straight. You’re more than happy to drink beer in Karl’s basement and watch TV with them. Especially since all the hometown adults don’t seem to care if you drink in their presence anymore. In about a year the prospect of doing this will seem literally horrible and all you’ll want to do is be back at school with your college friends. So embrace it.
Make me proud this summer, youths..