The Great Unsettling Of Sophomore Year

By: Astrid Casimire  

My second year at Stanford is in full swing, and I’m feeling more unsettled than ever. In fact, I’m outright struggling to feel at peace here.

It comes as a shock to me more than anything, because I thought that surely, after weathering the ups and downs of freshman year, I’d be well-adjusted and ready to tackle sophomore year like a boss, without a hitch. I’d hit the ground running and stay running for the entire year because I had so much energy and excitement building up in me after three months of rejuvenation and spirit-restoration back in sweet T&T.
Wrong.
So, so wrong.
Nothing is as picture-perfect as it seems

Like I said, this year I find it harder than ever to settle down and feel at home. And as I try to pinpoint the reason, I’m running into all kinds of contradictions. Because I have every reason to be oh-so-happy, but, frankly, I’m just not. Let me tell you why.
I thought, Wow, I’ve got a new dorm + a bigger room + enough space for a couch (s/o to Toyon’s 2-room double) + an awesome roommate! 
I thought, Hey, my class schedule is on point: HumBio Core (which I’m excited about despite its reputation for being difficult) + Spanish + Creative Writing = the perfect mix of classes that slot right in with my academic interests.
I thought, Gee I have this perfect extracurricular mix of things that I enjoy and things that are important to me.
I thought, Wowza, I can’t wait to reconnect with old friends + establish new relationships with dormmates, classmates & clubmates. How fulfilling!
And don’t get me wrong, these have all been positives of sophomore year so far.
In fact, in theory, I felt like I had the perfect formula for navigating sophomore year successfully. I thought, I have so much going for me right now; that darn sophomore slump won’t get to me, that’s for sure. But no matter how many why-I-love-sophomore-year lists I make, or schedules I do to organize my day, or efforts I put out to stay engaged, I cannot force myself to feel fulfilled and settled. In reality, a perfect theoretical formula doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing at all. Because we’re human. We’re complicated. Emotions get in the way. Not everything can be explained by theory.
¡Qué bonita!
In reality, I set my expectations way too high and was sorely disappointed to find out that being back at Stanford just isn’t as exciting as it was Freshman year(this is so hard to admit, because I believe high expectations = high standards. But it’s to be expected though, right? Everything’s not new and invigorating anymore. Why did I think it would be?). I don’t understand it, because Stanford is a fantastic place in so many ways – we’ve got a beautiful, sprawling campus, perfect weather, great infrastructure, the most interdisciplinary classes, excellent and supportive programming, spirited student life, endless ways to engage, and even as I appreciate every moment that I’m here, I just can’t force feelings of excitement.
In reality, I’m learning that I can’t force myself to feel any kind of way, period. No matter how excited, settled, and comfortable I should feel, I’ve long learned that unlike our expectations, feelings are something we cannot really control. They’re karma-karma-karma-karma-karma chameleons – they come and go, they come and gooooo. They change with the wind. But we can control our reactions and responses to our feelings. And that’s what matters. So the faster you accept and acknowledge feelings for what they are (what I’m trying to do now), the better equipped you are to work through them.
View at IAH. Love being in transit but
airports = ew.
In reality, I can’t shake this uneasy feeling of being not quite at home here yet. It’s the same out-of-place uneasiness I always feel in unfamiliar hotel rooms, airports and new places. After establishing a somewhat-solid routine in Trancos (my freshman dorm), I’m thrown into this completely different setting and I’ve gotta find a new routine that works for me. This takes time – time that I don’t have because we’re already 3 weeks in and I’m just going with the motions, mentally sprinting to keep up with this crazy quarter-system pace, with no real routine in place.
In reality, all these constant changes are throwing me the heck off – I’m just ready to settle into my life, and college isn’t giving me the chance to do that. But I’d just as soon admit that it’s these changes that are going to make me grow and learn the most, and I know I’ll finish college a much better, stronger person than I was.

In reality, I’m constantly shifting between having it together and completely falling apart. I’ve managed to be in bed by 11PM one night in order to wake up early the next morning to work (a system that works really well, what the heck!). But two days later, I’ve also managed to stay up until 3AM, swamped with work and little motivation, and wallowing in what a rough night it had become. I go from one extreme to the next in more ways than one – like Rihanna so eloquently sang: it’s 0 to 60 in 3.5. For instance, tonight started off so well – we had the first Calypso practice with our new

Connor and the BBZ (new members)!

members which was great, so great. The excitement was tangible, and I remembered how heartwarming and beautiful it is to share music, especially the steelpan, with others. I left there on a high, and a few hours later, sitting in front of my laptop contemplating things, I hit another low which prompted me to write this post. All in a day’s work, ya?

In reality, I’m barely keeping up with my schoolwork, no matter how many plans I make to stay on top of it. Everyday I pledge to catch up on my HumBio reading, and everydaytime simply runs out. At this point I don’t know where to draw the line between idealistic and delusional because there are just not enough hours in the day, and time is running away from me, and I don’t know if I should settle for this constant hustling to keep up or if I’m actually too busy and need to  do some serious intervention on my schedule.
In reality, these constant ups and downs affect my health and sometimes I feel so out of control. I binge and stress eat. I stay up late without cause. I’m constantly sleep-deprived and occasionally too exhausted to stick to my commitments. My immune system went down a bit and I’m fighting a cold of some sort right now. I’m breaking out every single week and feel the urge to hide my face in public because it’s a constant reminder of the ongoing distresses I feel.

In reality, I miss my room back home and having my own space. Throwing it back to high school, I was perfectly content with seeing my friends in class, and  liming outside of school a few times per quarter. I had a great routine of going to classes, then training, then returning home to work at night in the comfort of my own home, and my own space, resting assured that I could 100% be myself because I was around the people who knew me best and accepted me for all my flaws, grumpy moods and shortcomings (shoutout to my family back home!).

S/o to my family for putting up with me <3

But guess what? College is not high school (surprise, surprise)! From the living situation (having a roommate + living in a dorm + being surrounded by other students 24/7) to classes (I swear every class requires collaboration and sometimes I’m just not down), there is no way to escape the fact that college is a social experience as much as an academic one. Something, as an introvert, I’m still learning to navigate. I’m caught between “I wanna meet new people!” and “No new friends, no no new”, wondering how much effort to put into expanding my circle or instead keeping it small and strengthening current relationships.

In reality, although I don’t feel 100% at home here, I don’t know if I’d rather be back in Trinidad, either. Because despite everything, Stanford is my life’s default state now. Being a student is my occupation. I’m here for my education and home (Trinidad) just doesn’t mean the same thing anymore – although it is where my heart is because it’s where my family is, it’s no longer my default place, but more of a temporary resting spot between academic years. So if here isn’t home, and home isn’t home, where is? (An idea I’ve been grappling with since my first visit back home from school for Christmas Break last year).

 

Pic of me freshman year feeling at home at Stanford, yea?
A picture may speak a thousand words, but it may not always
tell the truth.
In reality, I constantly contradict myself because although I socially feel the need for more space, I’m also discovering that it is the people around me who make me feel like I belong the most. It is going to Calypso practice and just feeling completely at ease with the instrument and with my band-mates. It is going on a CSA retreat and feeling like I can finally be myself because I could relate to everyone on a cultural level. It is going to the 10PM mass and sharing my faith in solidarity with others. It is having a roommate that smiles when I walk into the room and reminds me to not be too hard on myself because just being here at college is an accomplishment (direct quote from the Debz! Simple but true!). It is knowing that there are friends I can call, text or meet up with if I ever need to talk.
Trini-love!
In reality, these contradictions make me feel like a phony, although I know I’m anything but. I think that to be without contradictions, is to lack humanity, because nobody is perfect, and we all contradict ourselves in one way or the other. But that’s a-okay because perfect internal harmony is hard to come by. Maybe that’s why this quote struck me when I first heard it:

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Gandhi

Because I strive for that kind of harmony and happiness, but never quite reach it because I can’t really shake these contradictions.
I think the biggest truth of all comes to me now that I’ve let this all out: I’m struggling here, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the experience. Yes, I aim to have a routine, to go to sleep early and eat well and exercise, but it’s okay if that doesn’t always work out. I keep on trying, and that’s important. Yes, I never actuallymade it to my bed tonight (just knocked out on the couch for a couple hours) and it’s now almost 6am, but it’s okaybecause I’m going to do my Spanish homework and prepare for classes tomorrow (today) so that I can start afresh.

 

Here is something I’ve told myself a million times in the past, but I’m only now starting to believe it:

It’s okay to not be okay.

This note to myself from freshman year remains on
my laptop’s dashboard today!

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