I’ve never been the type to adjust to change well. After my eighth-grade graduation, I went through a sort of mid-life crisis or whatever you might call a 14-year-old’s equivalent of that. I didn’t have to change schools because our curriculum had been designed to serve grades seven through 12, yet still the idea of high school seemed burdensome.
My concept of high school mostly came from Disney-produced teenage movies. I imagined myself going to parties, dating, staying out late with friends. I was about to be granted a new type of freedom (and responsibility,) yet instead of feeling exhilarated, I just felt frightened. How could I be old enough to go to high school? It just didn’t seem possible.
However, I quickly realized that the change would not be as drastic as I had imagined. In fact things were mostly the same. And ironically, I was a bit disappointed by that fact. Still, normalcy was comfortable, and I found safety in it. And suddenly I was a senior in high school, stressed with preparation for ACTs, SATs, and numerous college applications.
At first I was incredibly excited about graduating and becoming an “adult.” And, contrary to my personality, I had been set since sophomore year on going to college out-of-state, much to my father’s disapproval. I dreamed of independence, of living alone in a city where not every corner was familiar.
After receiving notification from all the universities I had applied to, I made my decision to come to Georgetown. Washington, a small city with a big city feel, would be nothing like Birmingham. It would be all mine to discover, all mine to create the type of memories I had only read about in books or seen in movies. Again, I was reliving that Disney-esque fantasy, but this time it didn’t seem so scary.
Then April came. The same feeling I had felt at the end of eighth grade suddenly crept over me, but it was much more intense this time. Again I asked, how could I be old enough to go to college? How could time have passed like that? I was still young and yet I felt so old.
I thought back over the years. When exactly had I put down the Barbie dolls and the plastic princess shoes? When exactly did I stop believing in fairytales and magic? When exactly was the last time I held my father’s hand while crossing the street?
I began to realize all that university meant. I was closing a chapter of my life and being forced into the next one. Leaving behind my childhood, I realized it was the hardest type of goodbye.
And for that reason, transitioning into college was much more difficult. I had to say goodbye to my family. I had to leave behind the city that I sometimes loved to hate, though mostly it was always love. I had to re-learn how to make friends, after having the same circle for five years.
In my first few weeks at Georgetown, I was incredibly lonely. My roommate seemed to make friends much easier than I did, which made me feel even more dejected. Every weekend she went out while I stayed in our dorm to scroll through old Twitter and Facebook feeds, I was envious. Every time my family called and asked how I would like Georgetown, I pretended to be happy while secretly wondering if I should transfer.
As a result, the first half of this past semester, I was filled with doubt. Could the Hilltop really become home for me? Was leaving Alabama a bad choice?
I now know that my biggest mistake was coming into college expecting my experience to play out in a certain way. I expected it to be like everyone else’s experience, which obviously unrealistic. If I had come to Georgetown without any expectations, as a complete blank slate, I believe my transition might have been a lot easier.
However, even with all these difficulties, all the newness eventually became familiar. Habits formed unknowingly. Changes suddenly became my routine. I returned to Birmingham in December expecting for everything I had left to be as usual. But home felt different. Home was still home, but then again, it wasn’t anymore. That’s what I thought in the beginning.
I later realized Alabama hadn’t changed. It was still the old sweet state I’d been raised in. Instead, it was I who had changed. Unconsciously, I had, if only a little, become different. The girl who had walked across a stage in front of hundreds of parents just six months prior to receive her diploma was no longer me. As cliche as it might sound, I no longer felt like a little girl, though perhaps not yet a woman. And now, I am realizing that another word for change can be growth, and growth is something I don’t need to fear. So I won’t.
Jasmine White is a freshman in the College. ’Bama Rogue appears every other Friday.