One of the worst things about college is having nothing to do but study. That is especially true in Steubenville, Ohio, where, even if I had a car, there is no place to go. I think the nearest big city is Pittsburgh about half-an-hour away. But I'm not talking about plays and operas and sports and amusement parks, because there are plenty of those at most colleges. In fact, in the first few weeks here, I was beginning to worry that I'd fill my time up with too many of the activities around here.
But I can't work in my garden, I can't take the dog for a walk, and can't play with the kitten, I can't snuggle with the rabbit. I can't make dinner, bake big pies, rake leaves, carve pumpkins, or clean the house. Even if I found outlets to do these things, it wouldn't be the same. I'm not with the people who are so dear to me.
Oh, sure, there are plenty of new memories to be made here. The library, for example, is incredible. It's everything I wish our library back home could be. It's modern, and not particularly romantic. Then you climb the stairs and walk through row upon row, column after column of books -- many of them old and hardbound. Oh, how my heart aches to read them all!
There are plenty of nooks on campus to curl up in, and the Piazza dei Sancti is a beautiful place to sit on a sunny day and feel the breeze on your neck as you read. Sitting under the trees is a perk. There are study lounges and comfy couches in common rooms, and even a fireplace in my dormitory, although I don't know the rules about its use.
You know something though? I don't feel like I've suddenly "grown up", like I had expected to. I wasn't sure why, at first, but even though I'm on my own now, here at college, I don't feel like I'm any more an adult than if I had continued to stay home. I don't feel "free", as some people claim to feel. I recently realized why. My life is not in my hands, no more than it has been in a long time -- say, since I got my driver's license, anyway. Here there are advisers and teachers and consultants and directors and food service and restrictions -- and no car. You can't go where you want to go when you want to go how you want to go. At college, you're actually severely limited unless you want to be dropped like a hot potato. There just aren't many options.
Of course, you could choose to act immature and fail to handle yourself like the adult you have supposedly now become, and perhaps that's why some people feel like they're free in college. But I came here from a homeschooling background, and a few years ago, I got a driver's license and was able to drive myself to my dance and music lessons, as well as my grandparents' houses over an hour away, and to my SAT, and to my brother's soccer games, and to daily Mass. I started school when I wanted to, and worked it around other activities as needed. I lived around my interactions with other people. Now my interactions with other people live around when college (studying, class, and other duties) allows.
One thing they really stress here is that our vocation as students here is to be students. We are called to work hard at our education and get good grades. We have to make sacrifices in order to live up to the expectations. That's all well and good, and I agree, but it's such a different way of life than I'm used to. I can get used to sharing a room with a stranger, I can get used to going to events by myself or actively seeking out people to go with, and I can get used to deadlines -- easy. But I can't get used to living my life around the parameters set for me. It wasn't that there aren't expectations to be met in homeschooling, because you ask any parent and they'll tell you they want their kids to learn and do well, but I was the one who ultimately set those expectations, especially in the last couple years of high school. I memorized that poem if I wanted to, I learned definitions either generally or by heart by my decision, and I took tests when I felt I understood the concept. Now I understand the concept when there are tests or else.
I don't object to the standardized format of collective schooling, but I do miss the flexibility of home. The highlight of my week is 'Ministry to Moms' when I go to a home nearby and sort of join their family for the afternoon. I love taking care of the kids and helping out with chores and sitting around the table with a family and sharing the day together. Maybe college life will feel like that eventually, but right now, I wish I was home.