College experience is life-changing, jarring, positive


This much I know is true: I am an occasional snob. I have a Type-A personality. I can be an insufferable control freak.

Though such conclusions have by no means been a mystery to me.

They were realized due to the dawning self-awareness borne of middle school, and resurfaced after the organized fun and forced bonding of freshman mentor group activities segued into a candid discussion of flaws.

I can only hope that the average college freshman understands and acknowledges the warped, imperfect corners of human existence — although I and many others tend to keep such admissions of self-realization locked away like long-forgotten Bibles in the empty drawers of dark hotel rooms.

We acknowledge them because we are forced to. We falter because we fail to recognize their presence in every fiber of our beings. We ignore them because we can.

In my short time at DePauw, I already feel jarred from of a life without shower shoes or audible neighbors, ripped across time, suspended in this existence like an insect fossilized in amber, almost as if I am waiting for my parents to fetch me after the final evening of a sojourn to summer camp.

If DePauw can turn my lifestyle upside down as easily as turning a t-shirt inside out, what's to say that it can't do the same to my beliefs, to my personality, to the very essence of my selfhood? What is college if not the most opportune moment to be forced into expunging that which should be changed and nurturing that which should be permitted to remain the same?

I, for one, am excited to change — excited to be enlightened by people and ideas from far-flung corners of the world of which I have only dreamed; excited to loosen up and relinquish the reins to others; excited to perhaps gain the sense of spontaneity that I have for so long envied in others.

I am excited to cull my tendency to plan for the future and lose sight of the present; excited to be more receptive to spur-of-the-moment occurrences; excited to be in a place where I no longer feel the need to keep group projects under my thumb for fear of others sabotaging the grade.

But I am also afraid to change — afraid to lose the leisure time or the will power necessary to read as profusely as I have read for as long as I can remember. I'm afraid to loosen up, perhaps too much, and lose sight of what I want; afraid to lose the cherished moments in which I steal away to write fiction. I am afraid to change too much, to stray too far from true North, to lose the opportunity to do what always has and always will define me.

College is a time of paradoxes and contradictions, an odd, uneven time — a twilight strip, a tightrope.  It forces students to change and beats the flaws out of them. After all, it's bad for the blood pressure to maintain Type-A behavior when book lists and meeting times fluctuate as absurdly as the Indiana weather. And it's difficult to be a snob when closeness is such a vital part of college interaction.

College leaves you beaten, eviscerated, dazzled, pulverized and illuminated, but better for it.

T.H. White once said, "If people reach perfection, they vanish."

White is correct — our flaws make us who we are, make us real, make us struggle and strive and reach to be different — to be bigger, to be better. It's only when we look at ourselves, and look so closely that we can end up on the other side of ourselves, that any change can be affected at all.

­— Westenfeld is a freshman Media Fellow from Fort Wayne, Ind. She plans to major in English literature or creative writing.