I walk through the college gate. My hair is wet from washing it this morning, my checked white shirt is sticking to my body, beads of sweat glistering on my face and my neck. It has been raining but the air is hot and suffocating. I have a maroon umbrella propped over myself protecting me from the rain that is spoiling my blue sneakers. I have promised myself that the first day of college would be nothing like the first day of my junior high when I had left my old school and joined a new one. I have promised to keep an open mind and embrace everything that is to come.
I put on a smile and greet a few girls. I am so busy faking smiles that I don’t even stop to ask myself if I really likes the girls I am talking to. This college is a girls’ college and I wasn’t supposed to go here until two weeks ago.
“Why did you take up History?” A girl who just introduced herself but whose name I have already forgotten asks me.
“I have always loved reading about post second world war international policies and the middle-east.” I reply.
“What do you want to do after college?” She asks another question.
With a sigh and a weak smile I say, “I don’t know, I guess I will figure it out.”
That is the weird thing about life, some people have it all figured out and the other lot have no idea about what they want to do. Do they want to drop out of college and pursue writing or do they want to complete college and get a good paying job?
This isn’t how I had expected my first day of college to go. I look at all the unfamiliar faces surrounding me and I sigh again. The universe has a bizarre way of surprising us, something that I have learnt recently. I start fiddling with my rings and think of a line from the poem ‘Desiderata’ written by the American poet Max Ehrmann , “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
Soon all the first year students are ushered into the auditorium and the principal lets them know all the rules. Do I want to become like those dignified men and women sitting on the stage with the principal or do I want to slip unnoticed? I am too busy to think all these because I am currently putting up a show where I act like I care about the girls around me, where I laugh at one of their lame jokes. Maybe I will think about it when I go home, or maybe it would be one of those things that I never figure out.
An old female professor leads me and the other History students into a room with dusty bookshelves, dwarfed wooden benches, creaking fans, dimming tube lights and an unfamiliar smell. I wait along with the other girls for the professor to say something but she doesn’t, she keeps reading a printed piece of paper. It feels as if she is waiting for someone to come. I look at the ceiling fan and the dim lights. The periodic creaking of the fan feels hypnotic. There are cob webs in all the four corners of the room waiting to trap a soul. The room smells of something peculiar, something old and something new. I am noticing everything as if I am a fly on the wall, and not really a part of whatever is going on around me.
After what feels like ages, the names are called and the students go and show the professors, who are now seated on a raised platform behind a huge wooden desk, their documents. I walk up too but something feels strange about the day as if I am not supposed to be here. I know right now I hate it here but what should I really do about it? Run away from here as fast as I can until I can’t see the college in the horizon anymore?
When college ends at two in the afternoon, I am exhausted from pretending all day. I take the bus to the station and the bus moves awfully slowly today. I then takes the train and reach another station. I can’t wait to go home and crash in my bed and cry. Why didn’t I go to the college where all my friends went? Why did I choose such an unfamiliar place in the heart of the city where everything feels like smoke?
When I reach home I take a bath. But when I sit to cry, I am too tired, so I read ‘To all the boys I’ve loved before’ instead.
P.S. I wrote this after my first day in college. Over a month has passed since then and things have gotten so much better, I have made new friends and I have started liking my college. New beginnings are supposed to be hard and scary. New beginnings test our strength. With time things do get easier and better. We just need to remember that the universe is not working against us, it is working with us.