With four years of hindsight, I believe that no 18-year-old should be expected to make redeemable decisions.
Getting a tattoo of a crescent moon on my left hipbone to celebrate surpassing the age barrier to be legally penetrated by an inky needle? Eagerly exploding out of a cab to greet a friend as said cab drove away with my huge purse? I consider these choices to be, well, totally irredeemable. Allowing myself to have been immersed in a college community that accepts and treats sexism casually? Also entirely irredeemable.
Before transferring to Lang, I attended a predominantly conservative liberal arts college infested with Greek life, anathema to me, an introverted art freak with an appreciation for spacious thinking, obtuse humor and the Wu-Tang Clan.
I come from an avidly liberal household, but the many components of my high school chapter that had worn my spirit to a wafer-thin crisp ultimately equipped me to blindly jump off a cliff into the murky unknown of the next chapter.
Lafayette College (which is nestled snuggly in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania) was a bit of a shock. It is very aesthetically pleasing, for sure, and what you may (or may not) picture when someone wearing Jack Rogers sandals says “college.”
When I was 18, I thought Jack Rogers were cool, maybe? I held no opinion. What I did know was that I had been accepted to a fine and academically rigorous school where I recalled admiring the printmaking studio.
And don’t read this wrong — I have nothing against Jack Rogers sandals and those who wear them (and this is not to say that a shoe defines a group of people). It is merely an ill-spirited stereotype that I hold within my head.
It was there that I honed my tolerance. I found myself in many, many situations where I knew there was no shot at changing the mindset of the other person whose beliefs I oppose, let alone a purpose.
Rather than arguing, which is not one of my strengths to begin with, I listened.
Those in support of Trump almost always had little to no evidence for their argument other than seeing his agenda a lesser evil, which I can only hope their hindsight now sees as wishful thinking. Sitting on a loveseat in a dorm room plastered with New York Giants posters, lacrosse sticks haphazardly hung on bunk beds, and blinds drawn so that no sunlight could enter, I saw a boy with an overly-gelled quiff tell me “jokingly” that a woman “just wasn’t capable of dictating” our country.
His very conclusion is part of what cast a sexist cloud over the school community. A woman telling white men what to do? Horrific. Often I witnessed male students allow “ladies first” in the dining hall, but almost always with a sarcastic tone, followed by a discreet laugh shared with a roommate off to the side. This was not everyone. There were many well-behaved boys to balance out the pointedly sexist and misogynistic ones. However, it deeply saddened me that in a school of liberal arts, outdated ideologies were prevalent.
I remained quiet as a defense mechanism until I removed myself from the environment for a number of complex reasons — namely anorexia and depression. A year later, staying silent about my opinions and struggles is the immense regret I have about the way I used my time at that school. The Greek culture was responsible for a toxically high amount of the school’s spirit, and I watched myself get heavily sucked in. As amusing as it may be, having a “social life” was completely impossible without participating.
It turns out that I prefer to have little to no social life whatsoever, but I wasn’t very aware of that at the time. I found myself shouting chants I thought were thoroughly ridiculous and kissing boys I didn’t necessarily like. I convinced myself I was enjoying it out of convenience rather than comfort.
Though Lafayette may or may not have been a mistake, it led me to gain some incredibly important perspective on myself and my place in the world that could have easily manifested as a mid-life crisis down the line. I’ve since happily accepted that chapter of my life, my quarter-life crisis with its many complexities, in all its glory.
That said, starting this semester at The New School as a junior transfer from Lafayette College, where I pitied myself for three bemusing years, I was fiercely slapped in the face with the admirably raw community Manhattan has to offer. Now marinating in this New York environment rich with justice, I do feel free.
Rather than standing in a corner (front and center on a good day) at a house party unknowingly tainting everyone’s vibes with a bemused scowl, I am confident that when I choose to open my mouth, the words that come out will be agreed with. Validated. The years at Lafayette and my new experiences at The New School feel like two different lives, but my confusion about that section of my life decreases with each hour of each day.
Photo by Freya Dobsonr