S A R I S H A K U R U P
I have a hard time figuring out just how to encapsulate the experience that has been my first semester of college. I have loved this time so fiercely that it seems impossible to put down in words, but the thing that unifies it all, I think, is the place. I knew that I would love Maine, but I did not realize how essentially natural and right it would feel to live this way, amongst the tall pines and white snow, the little town and the neighborhood stores. I sat in a diner last Saturday morning studying and the women who worked there knew every person that came in and I couldn't help feeling that I had been dropped into one of those stories I used to read when I was younger.
The first time it snowed here, I had something of an epiphany, a sudden realization that I was actually here. For so long I have wanted to live through this--seasons--really experience what it means for the earth to change. When I first visited Bowdoin, I wrote in my journal that I thought living here would feed my soul in some essential way, and I was right. The amount of beauty I see everyday changes the way I feel, the way I act, the way I approach things on a daily basis. Last night, around midnight, some friends and I drove out to the ocean and we walked across an icy boat dock to find the water near us frozen, a great big stretch of white into the blackness, as the sky overhead reached around us on all sides so that the world actually felt round, the stars clear and heavy. It was another epiphany moment, and I keep having them. Some glimpse of the sublime that I didn't quite understand when I read the Romantics and the Transcendentalists in high school, something I just couldn't have understood in California, but I feel as though I get it now, a little bit. I feel as though I am a part of this world, not a force to shape it but simply a being meant to exist within it, with it. I know now the precise crack of a boot crushing through a layer of ice to get to the powdery snow beneath it, the way autumn leaves fall in little rings around the trees, how the lights in the windows of homes reflect on the snow outside, how it sounds when you throw ice from a bridge onto the frozen river below, the precise texture of New England sand. The world here feels so much more real, whereas California has always had a synthetic quality to her in my mind.
I could not have been happier here, these past four months. I have found dear friends who feel like something of a family. I have read books* that fascinate and challenge me, magazines** that make me want to read more, write more. I have written papers about things that I have grown to care about. It feels almost like an entirely different life from the one I had lived, in a sense, because I care about things in a way that I never did before. I feel things more essentially, think about things more fully. I am curious in a real way, my interests have more depth. Perhaps this is what they call growing up, but usually I do not realize I have changed until it has already happened. Now, I am aware of myself distinctly being molded, taking on a new shape.
This is a quiet contentment with life that I have never experienced before. Less rushed, I do things because I want to. I read because I want to learn, write because I want to create, travel because I want to see. For the first time, I am happy just to exist.
*Postwar by Tony Judt, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, One Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse, Foreign Front by Quinn Slobodian
** Jacobin, Current Affairs Magazine