Reflections on my first year: Trials and tribulations of adjusting

In the past year, my feelings about Macalester and the people who attend it have gone up, down and all around as I’ve scrambled to form an opinion about my life here. First, let me preface that I wanted to go to college for over two years before I came here, so college came with a mixture of high expectations, long-overdue relief, and independence. As a result, I spent my first semester here happy, as I eagerly made friends and looked for a connection, any connection, with people that would indicate that they we would be long-term close friends. I met many new people and formed close friend-groups with many people. I was happy to feel a sense of belonging within these groups. I felt so sheltered and I was content to hang out within these groups every weekend, trying to reinforce these friendships. As I left campus for winter break, I left feeling as though I had made a family and formed a place at Macalester all for me.

When I returned to campus, I then wished to continue moving forward with this progress: to continue meeting new people, to go out on weekends and emerge from the shell of comfort I had created with the assurance that I could always retreat if something went wrong. However, I found that by this point, everyone’s groups, including mine, had become so comfortable they had stopped reaching out. It was as though every first-year had reached their limit of friends and didn’t want to consider opening up to let new ones in.

Additionally, I found that even though Macalester is not a particularly athletically-focused school, many of the events on weekends were primarily for sports teams. Many people gained friends and connections through their participation in club sports. This was hard for me to grapple with because I had encountered this same issue in high school and had hoped for this exclusivity to end in college.

You see, I am not a sporty person. I have gotten into exercising thanks to the availability of the Leonard Center, but I am not competitive and have always dreaded any sort of sports games that required me to be so. I am not sure why I lost my competitiveness, maybe it was because I could not participate in sports between 4th grade and 11th grade because of foot problems, or maybe I just never really had it in the first place. Either way, I don’t feel any inclination to participate in sports and as a result I feel like I have been held back from much of the social life here at Macalester.

I have met great people and my mind has been opened to many new ideas and concepts. However, some of the encounters I’ve had have been liberal and open in name only. I have found that some people purport to be open and understanding, only to then not be open to having their minds changed or new ideas formed. Some people here have become so stuck in one mindset that it is hard for them to open their minds to hearing another person’s story without trying to fit the narrative into their already formed opinions.

I have found this tends to go hand in hand with people being overly politically correct. I understand that it is important to be politically correct when discussing contentious and sensitive issues, but sometimes I find this keeps many conversations from happening, as people don’t feel comfortable talking without knowing all the current terms. I have an agreement with my roommate that has worked well that we will try our best to be sensitive, but not at the expense of a thought not being spoken. And if that thought does offend the other person, which we try our best to make sure does not happen, we simply have to tell the other that it did and make the other person understand why and how to avoid that in the future. We have an understanding that whatever we say, it is never meant to offend or hurt the other person and as such we are able to speak more freely in our room without fear of reproach or conflict. I’m not saying this is a sustainable model for campus-wide discussion, as it requires a certain level of trust and familiarity, however it is important to understand that sometimes getting the thought out is more important than being politically correct about it.

This may seem to be a very negative article. I’m sorry about that, but my mind tends to think first of the problems, then of all the positive aspects of life here. However, I will have to leave you wondering about my positive opinions, as my editor may not like me to submit a five-page paper on my ponderings. I will simply end this article by assuring that I have a multitude of positive opinions and thoughts on Macalester that far outweigh these small qualms.