By Sarah Wells
My stomach ached ferociously as I held back tears. There’s a reason why homesickness has its name. I wanted to pet my dog, hug my mom, and lay in my bed. My bed. Not the skinny, lumpy one in the unfamiliar dorm with fluorescent lights. I looked around the quad with the bouncy houses, the crowd, and the people in the booths, trying to get me to join their organizations with free merchandise—all things that should have been thrilling. Instead, I just felt empty. I prayed for the event to be over soon, to be able to go back to my room and watch a movie, go to sleep, or do anything to lower my heart rate and the lightheadedness that messed with my thoughts and stifled my breathing.
I should’ve been in a good mood that night. I don’t know what was wrong with me if I was burned out or simply just miserable. I didn’t want to ruin the night. I didn’t want to ruin this delicately crafted memory we had made, one that everyone held in their hands like a glass ball, a prophetic orb that was reflective of how amazing their college experience was going to be.
My new friends stood in a circle and chatted excitedly about everything going on. I fiddled with my metal rings and cracked a joke that no one had heard, an experience that I had gotten used to over the course of my high school career.
My brain hissed the reality that I had been absolutely terrified of.
This is going to be just like high school.
My stomach dropped, and goosebumps formed on my arms like they do when you’re watching a horror movie. Except this horror movie was my real life. I felt a cold sweat form on my palms, a stomach ache forming in my midsection like a tornado brewing in a dust field. Suck it up, the voice in my head whispered. You’re going to ruin this for everyone.
I went on autopilot for the rest of the night, saying things that my brain didn’t even register. I couldn’t tell you a single something I said after nine o’clock. My rings wore into my fingers as I spun them around frantically, wanting my intrusive thoughts to trickle out of the side of my ear like water after a swim. I closed my eyes, opened them, and twisted a strand of my hair into a tangled knot that almost resembled the one in my stomach.
My roommate and I went back to the dorm after searching for a party I didn’t want to go to and thankfully couldn’t find (although I would’ve instead hit myself on the hand with a hammer than tell her that at the moment). Finally, sitting on my bed, I let the tears flow down my cheeks like two rivers on either side of my face, thinking about how this was supposed to be easy. College was supposed to be like two weights being lifted off my shoulders after years of slouching through a place where nobody understood, a place where I was miserable every single day. I fell asleep that night and woke up the next morning with a head full of nothing but a migraine.
A month and a half later, that night seemed like an eternity ago. I may still be familiar with the emptiness of homesickness, the burning behind my eyes when I’m exhausted, the tears, and the feeling of failure. When I’m standing in the corner of a party, anxiously awaiting a thought to slide into my head and ruin my night.
But no big evolution comes without a stomach full of doubt, a head full of anxious thoughts rattling around like marbles in a tin can, and especially a small voice telling you the opposite of what you want to hear. I guess that means I’m changing.
That’s the thing about repetition. It never stops. I may have felt terrible that night, and I’m sure there will be many more terrible nights in the future. However, just a few weeks after that fateful night, I went out and laughed so hard that my cheeks hurt from smiling, and my head hurt from laughing. Why don’t we talk about the good nights more? The nights are full of gleeful laughter, confiding in people who care, and listening to music that doesn’t make us want to jump out the window. Perhaps if we dwelled on the nights that we actually loved more, then the awful, mind-numbing ones won’t seem as drastic.
Sarah Wells is a Freshman Creative Writing student. She enjoys writing comedic and narrative short stories. In her free time, you can find her at meetings for Syracuse’s undergraduate creative writing club, Write Out, or writing and acting in sketches for student-run comedy show Live From Studio B. She enjoys television and books more than the average person and will discuss the two topics extensively if you let her.