BY CALEIGH A. CROSS
Sometimes I feel like I should get a tattoo on my back that says: "Move-in day is Sept. 3, I'm going to Bishop's University, and yes, I'm excited." If I had a nickel -- no, a penny -- for all the people who have asked me where I'm off to next year, when I leave, and whether I'm excited ... well, let's just say paying for my textbooks for first term wouldn't be an issue anymore.
Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little. And I do appreciate all the people who care enough about me to ask, but I'm sure if you asked any college-bound member of the brand-new class of 2015, they'd tell you the phrase, "And what are your fall plans?" has pretty much replaced the word "Hello." It's not that I don't like talking about it, and even if I was in some kind of denial, it wouldn't be very effective, at least not with the increasing volume of emails sent out by my university as "The Day" approaches. (It's like Hogwarts trying to reach Harry Potter.) It's just that, well ... there's a lot to get done in a short amount of time, and it can be a stressful summer. There are a lot of emotions that go along with preparing to take this step that high school guidance counselors really ought to talk more about, in addition to the ever-present "What You Need for Your College Dorm" list they hand out.
But before we talk about that, we should get some formalities out of the way. Once and for all, I'm going to Bishop's University. Sitting on a spacious 40 acres in the heart of Lennoxville, a suburb of Sherbrooke, Quebec, it was founded in 1843 with the Reverend Jasper H. Nicolls as its first headmaster. Our school mascot is the Gaiter, which, as student legend has it, is the name of the tall socks -- called gaiters -- often worn by bishops. I've been up to the campus many times (it's only about an hour and a half's drive from St. Johnsbury) and it's reminiscent of our Academy: the average class contains 22 students and the student-to-faculty ratio is 14 to one. They proudly boast an atmosphere where students and professors are on a first-name basis.
Right now I'm enrolled in the pre-medical program, which at Bishop's is a fast track to a career in medicine. If I stay this course, I'm looking at a job as a geriatrician (a physician who cares for the elderly) or an anesthesiologist, but you never know, I may change my mind. Bishop's has such a wide variety of programs and faculties that there are lots of options if I decide medicine isn't for me.
As exciting as all of this theoretically is, and no matter how awesome I know the experience is going to be, there are still some reasons why sometimes I still shy away from all those questions. In a way, it's the end of the beginning: I might be moving on to bigger and better things, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to miss where I came from. I suppose it's a sadness that is more all-encompassing than just growing pains or knowing I'm going to miss my friends and family; it's a grief at the knowledge that an era in my life is ending and nothing will ever be the same again. It puts to mind James Agee's now-famous quote, "How far we all come away from ourselves. You can never go home again." Of course I can always physically come back to this place, I can always walk the streets of St. Johnsbury, but I will not call it home as I once used to, because I will have had different experiences and thus become a different person.
It can be startling to realise that family life will go on without you, and that life back here in Vermont doesn't cease to exist just because you've left. Just recently I went through my old room and cleared out a lot of my old stuff in preparation for this space to become ... whatever it will become next, just as I am preparing to become whatever I will be next. Apart from all the goes-without-saying nostalgia, I have to say, it's really nice having such an organised space. All I can hope for is that I manage to keep it this way, so I don't have to go through the whole process again.
I've been pretty gloom and doom so far, and I just remembered saying mixed emotions at some point in time, so I should probably tell you that I'm extremely excited about going to the University. And I'm not just thinking about all my new-found freedom, either, although believe me, that's a high point -- no more begging to go out, begging for half an hour more, having to call home to find out if I can stay to have ice cream after the movie ... it's going to be totally awesome. Life will be way more convenient, too: as everybody out there knows, in Vermont, if you want to go grocery shopping, you need to factor in an extra hour of driving time. Not in the college world. Everything I need is within walking distance: my dorm is close to the dining hall and there are restaurants, grocery stores and movie rental places all over town. I get to live with my friends full-time and I won't have to ask my parents for permission to do things anymore.
They say fish don't grow unless you give them a bigger bowl in which to do it. Lately I've been feeling that even though I'm nervous -- sometimes even scared -- and even though I know it's going to change everything, I'm ready. I'm ready to take responsibility for the mistakes I know I'll make along the way, and I'm ready to learn how to live my life the way it's meant to be lived. There's a quote I found that I feel is perfect, and I'll leave you with it: "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly." Class of 2015: this is going to be awesome.