Sunday, July 1, 2007

Leaving South Bend, never easy

As I write this, one of my best friends is on a plane, heading to West Point for basic training.

It is, I know, something he has always wanted.

But that doesn't make it any easier for me, for his friends, for his family - for all of us he's leaving behind. It reminds me a little of that line in "Leaving New York," It's easier to leave than to be left behind.

That song's always had a lot of meaning for me, and I'm not even from New York. Now, though, it really hits home.

John is one of those guys who's everybody's friend. Smart, funny, good-looking, kind of happy-go-lucky, football player, honors student...just an all-around great guy. Yes, he had girl problems like all of us; yes, he could be insensitive; yes, sometimes he cut corners or he slacked off. He wasn't perfect, but he was...he was John.

And now he's just a new cadet. He gave us his address, so we can send letters to him while he's at Basic, and we can't even put his first name on them. They're taking his name, and I don't know what else, and I'm scared that the John I see in a few months, if I even do get to see him that soon, isn't going to be the John I knew.

I think we all feel this way, all of my friends. It's becoming increasingly clear that we only have precious little time left together. A few months ago, college was just a letter in the mail, a dream that we desperately wanted to come true. Now it's real, and we realize that the dream is bittersweet.

John's been a great friend to me these past few years, and I'd miss him terribly even if he weren't leaving so soon, even if he weren't going to West Point. But at the same time, John and his departure are also just one example of what we're all going to be going through very soon, as we get ready to leave South Bend for the new school and new city we've chosen for ourselves.

I'm excited, naturally. I know I made the right choice, I know that MIT is the right school for me. The academics and the facilities are everything I've ever dreamed of, the students and the faculty fit my own personality without me having to conform to their standards - and I am going to love living in Boston.

But in a way my excitement is also just a facade covering up all the fear and anxiety I have about actually leaving home, actually drinking from the firehose that is MIT. I joke about being buried by p-sets, but what if I really can't handle all the work? My parents keep telling me not to do too much and spread myself too thin (and I, in return, keep insisting that I know how to manage my time), but what if I really do end up taking on more than I can handle?

And I am afraid, just a little bit, of my fellow classmates - which is kind of ironic, because everybody I've met, at CPW or on Facebook or elsewhere, has been completely friendly and I'm really looking forward to meeting all of them in August. But they've all done such amazing things and all seem to know exactly what they'll be doing at MIT, and sometimes I feel very small compared to them. I worry about fitting in, about not being overlooked socially or academically, about whether or not my roommate will get along, about succeeding in my classes, about extra-curriculars, about getting a UROP. I even worry about whether or not I'll actually have enough time to watch the Notre Dame games every Saturday, like I've been planning to.

But...in spite of all that...I'm doing just fine. I've made my choice, and even if I am scared I'm not going to let that stop me from having the time of my life. It's going to be hard, but it's supposed to be. And that's the way I like it.

My future's mercurial, the past...I'm not going to forget it. But I won't let it hold me back.

So maybe I've made you smile, maybe I made you frown. But I'm not changing my mind, and I'm not turning around.

I'm going to MIT.

This one's for you, John.

1 comment:

Snively said...

Psh, I promise that I'm not one of those fellow classmates that have done amazing things, there are going to be ordinary people too.