The Beauty of Beginning

The essence of a successful college experience, for many people, is forward movement. Walking around Boston College, it’s obvious that the student body complies with the age-old phrase, “seniority rules.”

There is an unspoken agreement that upperclassmen are to be viewed as a wiser and “more enlightened” species of students. Of course, this is justifiable in some regard. No one can deny that, with age, comes a wealth of valuable experience. A senior is likely to have a greater sense of career direction than a day-old freshman with an undeclared major.

Likewise, a junior would know better than to use the trays in the dining hall or to wander aimlessly around the Mods on a Saturday night without a promising name in mind. Such empirical knowledge naturally increases one’s sense of self-security, as well as rapport with the BC community.

Over the course of the first week of my sophomore year, however, I have realized that there is an often overlooked beauty in the process of beginning.

Most human actions are driven by the innate desire for understanding. Moving onto campus as a freshman, I remember feeling an intense sense of urgency to familiarize myself with my new home as soon as possible, and to transform the unknown environment into a comfort zone and a place of belonging.

Looking back, however, just one year later, I recognize that the value of the freshman experience is too often undermined by this pulsating desire to move forward in time. Constantly focusing on rushing down the path to seniority, living in the mods, and receiving a diploma distracts from the benefits of the freshman experience.

Although I am glad to have transcended my status as a freshman, I simultaneously envy the person I was a year ago. During those first few weeks of college, I could not help but be a beginner in every sense. I did not know the difference between Stokes North and South, where to buy my books, or how to beat the crowd in Eagle’s Nest at 12 p.m.

Only now do I recognize that my innocence and unknowing were in many ways gifts, for they forced me to approach the college experience in a spirit of discovery and genuine curiosity.

Every class had the potential to inspire a new interest within me. Every floormate was a prospective friend. Paradoxically, my unawareness as to where my path may lead and what the trajectory of my freshman year would be prompted me to become more engaged in the present moment, and to appreciate every dimension of my experience.

The first year of college is unique in that it is the only time when you and the fellow members of your class are on an equal playing field. The majority of new students harbor at least some degree of anxiety during the initial transition to campus, and certainly everyone possesses the desire to forge strong friendships. In this way, as a first year student, you automatically have something in common with almost every other freshman you meet.

While growing up is of course inevitable throughout one’s college career, who is to say we must relinquish the curiosity and eagerness with which we began the journey? Witnessing freshmen take pictures of Gasson Hall reminds me to stop and take in the beauty myself. Why must I roll my eyes and feign disinterest, simply because I am accustomed to the building and its striking architecture?

Talking to freshmen or to first-year transfer students not only casts a light on this pervading sense of indifference among upperclassmen, but also draws attention to stigmas which we as a student body collectively reinforce.

One such example is the irrational fear surrounding life on CoRo. Having been placed in a double on College Road, despite my hopes for an eight-man in Walsh, I am living what many BC students would refer to as “a nightmare” and will inevitably be subjected to “social suicide.”

I am of course being ironic. The gasps of horror and the pitiful looks my friends and I receive when explaining our housing situation, however, would make one think we are in fact doomed. I would be lying if I said that I do not wish I lived in Walsh, surrounded by the majority of my class, in the heart of “the social scene.” Nonetheless, CoRo is a perfectly suitable living situation for me, and I am by no means suffering.

Given that many transfer and foreign exchange students are placed on CoRo, my friends and I have the privilege of living alongside a variety of open-minded individuals who have not yet been indoctrinated with the stigmas that upperclassmen harbor.

One new friend, who lives in the dorm over and transferred to BC this semester, said that, she had no idea CoRo had a poor reputation prior to coming here. It wasn’t until she arrived to campus and witnessed the grieving conversations between the returning students on her hall that she sensed something must be wrong.

Though she has since been informed that she received the “short end of the stick” in terms of housing, she continues to maintain a positive presence and an objective viewpoint on the matter. Sometimes, it takes talking to a new student or hearing an outsider’s perspective on subjects like CoRo to wake us up to the reality of a situation.

Perhaps we could all benefit from seeing the world, and more specifically, the BC community, through the unique scope of a beginner’s eyes, while continuing to recognize it as a familiar place in which each of us belong.

What if there were a way that we could move forward academically, socially, and intellectually while remaining grounded in the innocence and eagerness that we all inherently possess? What if it is possible to gain experience and move down the path of time without without giving up our inborn sense of wonder?

In the famous words of the Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s there are few.”

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor