Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

Sophomore slump, or, second loves

I thought it would be hard to write my first article this year, to choose how to start again after a whole summer of silence. There’s just so much to say, but when I sat down at my computer, I knew what I needed to write about. I’m a sophomore now, and following in the grand tradition of sophomores who write, I had to write about the sophomore slump.

It’s easy in some ways because I remember being a freshman so vividly. I remember being so excited — discovering secret shortcuts, being starstruck by the people who come to talk to us — or constantly marveling that I was now a part of the “us” of other Stanford students — my biggest regret was that I couldn’t do more everyday. There were so many new people to meet and so many friends who had sprawling lives that needed 4 a.m nights to unravel. Every class was exciting and every professor was impressive. Even though the coursework was challenging  I did every reading assigned and did much more on each assignment than I strictly needed to.

And now it’s sophomore year. And it’s not bad, but something feels off. I constantly thought it was me, that I just had to get settled, that everything was in flux and that eventually it would go back to feeling the same. That I’d still choose to walk 20 minutes just to sit at Cantor or that I would go to all the talks I could and make use of every moment I have left at Stanford. I kept thinking this can’t be the slump — it’s too early, it’s too expected and most glaringly: Nothing is wrong.

But then I read Astrid Casimire’s article, “The Great Unsettling of Sophomore Year.” I saw the students’ reactions to the article online and I realized it wasn’t just me.

To call it a sophomore slump seems flippant. “Sophomore slump” sounds worn out, like a catchphrase with some cheap alliteration. Personally, those two words don’t quite capture how this year feels.

Because this year, it feels like a window is already closing. This year, I’m not as excited to tell people I’m still exploring majors. This year, I walk with my head down because I know the paths too well. This year, I watch more lectures online than I attend in person and almost always in double speed.

And yet, it’s better too. There are familiar faces all around campus now. There are friendships now that have deepened over the past year, friendships that make this place feel like home. I’m better at picking what I love, better at letting go of meaningless challenges. Even if that means dropping a class in something I thought I’d major in. But even as  I tried to convince myself that this is better, that this year will be more, I felt like I was mourning something.

Because now, nothing is as new or shiny. When I read headlines involving Stanford, I now expect to read “Brock Turner” or “alcohol policy” in the same sentence.  When I think about change-makers, I see Stanford’s innovators alongside those protests from last year that were ignored or watered down. I’m still excited about Stanford, but now my enthusiasm comes with qualifications, and it comes in waves that are less frequent and more subdued.

I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing, especially considering last week.

It was a Monday and it felt like I was hurtling through the week head first. There were PSETs due, midterms on the horizon and readings to catch up on and laundry still left untouched from the weekend. For the first three weeks, all of that would’ve made me head straight to my room after the day’s official obligations had ended, but instead, I went to an event that had no academic significance to me, but which I knew I would love. While walking back from  a screening of Issa Rae’s show and some great performances by Black Girl Magic, a familiar sensation came back to me when I was huddled against the breeze, sidestepping the dark puddles on my path around Meyer Green: awe.

Awe of this place, awe of the buildings humming with potential, awe of my peers, who contained so much, awe of  my unique place here. Awe that somehow I had become a person who could recognize the sound that the water falling from the red fountain near Coupa Cafe makes and tell it apart from the fountain on the side of the Graduate School of Education. I welcomed the feeling I had often felt freshman year and it felt like a break from the slump. This year felt new again.

Everybody talks about first loves — how special they are, how nothing is ever like it. And they’re right, sophomore year isn’t freshman year and your second kiss doesn’t make for as good a story as your first — but there is something special about falling in love again.

Because the first time is about discovering something shocking and wildly new. But the second time is about discovering that this love, this awe, this excitement, this sense of wonder doesn’t disappear when the object is lost. It is about discovering that this love comes from you, that this vastness exists in you, and it can be evoked by the world but it can never be lost to it.

The love isn’t lost.

It feels too obvious to say that sophomore year simply isn’t freshman year. While it’s true that we are not the same people, I don’t think it’s quite that either. I think this slump is just a mix of  the growing pains of accepting Stanford and what our experience will come to mean as we grow more familiar, more jaded and closer to who we will someday be.

Stanford is now familiar and sometimes that is boring. Sometimes it is stressful. But the love of MemChu emerging from between the palm trees, of walking to Late Night with your best friends, of reaching your room after a long day and finally dropping your bag and realizing you are home; that love persists. It just needs to be discovered.

 

Contact Rhea Karuturi at rheakaruturi ‘at’ stanford.edu.