What It's (Honestly) Like to Be a Freshman

Sarah Stone Staff Writer At the end of eighth grade, middle school was over and I felt superior; maybe not in terms of height, but in some wisdom that I felt my three years of middle school had given me. My grade had graduated from being scheduled and supervised every single second, and was entering a new phase. We were entering something completely different, something that we only glimpsed during trips to the library or computer lab. My confidence was somewhat high. I wasn’t a new kid, orientation was smooth, and many of the faces in the freshman class were familiar to me. I felt comfortable. All of that changed the day school started. Actually, it changed when I had started to think about school starting. A week or so before the long-awaited first day, I had planned and unplanned my outfit at least thirty times, not sure what was too summer-y, too formal, or too casual. After eventually gathering a sufficiently balanced outfit, I walked through the double doors and climbed the stairs to the freshman hallway. Again I saw familiar faces, and for a few minutes I felt calm. But then I realized I had to get to my first class. Panicking, I unfolded my schedule, trying to figure out which numbers to follow and what to bring. Should I bring a backpack, or just my things? Do I need all my textbooks, or can I leave this one? But what if teachers freak out when you don’t have your stuff? Frantically grabbing anything I could find, I shoved the contents of my locker into my backpack and attempted to find my class. I soon learned that the only way to Spanish class was to pass the senior hallway, a terrifying prospect in and of itself. Slowly weaving my way through the six-foot guys and girls, I kept my head down and tried to keep them from noticing me.  I just need to get to Spanish class.  I noticed most people wore backpacks and I felt relieved I made the right choice. But then indecision hit again. Wait, should I wear two straps or one? Two is more practical, but is it more pretentious? One is relaxed, but then it looks like I’m trying too hard. I decided on the two-shoulder approach, and, with my chin at my chest, I made it to my class. I was late. As I walked in to the class filled with sophomores and juniors, everyone’s eyes flicked to me as I quietly apologized in Spanish and found a seat. I pulled out my folders and various books, clearly making enough noise to gather a few cold stares from the juniors. As I placed my things on the table and finally exhaled, I heard a sophomore a few seats over whispering, “psh, freshman,” and snickering to her friend. But hadn’t they all been freshmen too? They had all come to classes late their first day, kept their heads down in the halls, and had panic attacks about what to wear. They had all been through the anxiety and fear and judgment, and had had the feeling that they could never seem to do anything right. They just didn’t want to admit it. After they made it through their freshman years, everything was easier, and they felt superior. They had made it past being the bottom of the food chain, but they had still been there. They shouldn’t forget their freshman years just because they weren’t in them anymore. Next year when I see a panicked freshman in the halls I’m not going to sneer or make fun of them, but I’m going to smile and maybe even say hello. All students know what their first day of freshman year was like, but it takes some courage to learn from it.]]>