Reminiscing about Grinnell, taking life one week at a time

“Things will look different in a week,” a friend’s dad advised me during my first year. I had meandered across the hall and intruded on a father-son advice session over Skype, and couldn’t help but to fish for some piece of wisdom to soften what I must assume—now that my elderly mind has foregone all but the most critical information from the memory—had been a “hard week.” I loved this piece of advice—I skipped back into my own room and scribbled it on a post-it that I kept tacked up on my desk.

It’s worked its way nicely into my trove of reassuring thoughts for those rough weeks. We seem to measure things more in terms of weeks than in terms of days around here—one long day of staying up late (or getting up early, as you might recall I like to do)—turns into two days of decreased sleep, turns into three days of sleeping through 2-4 p.m. classes, turns into … isn’t it the weekend yet? Those precious two days when you get to press the snooze button—or not set an alarm at all!—hoping for an easier week than the last.

Things will certainly look different a week from today. Instead of revising French papers, skimming readings about the Cuban Revolution, madly typing a column for the S&B ( … I mean, happily composing my wise thoughts for a placid newspaper audience?), I will be laying on my living room floor hopefully wearing some maternity-cum-Thanksgiving Pants á la Joey Tribbiani, deep in some tryptophan-induced haze. Now those are prospects that can power me through the worst of times!

This advice offers a positive way of looking ahead, but I also can’t help but look back and remark on how different things were a year ago, two years, three. By the natural order of things, a lot obviously happens in the time span of one year, but it’s amazing how much more seems to get packed into one year of college. One of my favorite things to do when I’m bored is think about where I was exactly one year ago today. This idea most recently came up in conversation with my dad as we planned winter break—“If you have a five week break again this year, then why did it seem so short last year?” he asked. “Oh that’s right, you left for France.”
To think that it’s been almost a whole year since I agonized over getting my visa in time for my early January departure, if my host family would like me, how I would possibly stay au courant on Grinnell life from across the ocean, what clothes would least betray my American-ness in the eyes of the chic French—let alone, you know, navigate the whole language barrier? Indeed, things looked different a year ago.

Things, too, looked quite different two years ago. Nestled up on Gates 2nd with Ruth Campbell ’11 and Felicity Slater ’11, my life was a love fest of Christmas lights and big windows, Andrew Bird music playing in the background and sitting on the floor of our giant triple drinking tea with my roommates reading Tolstoy and patting ourselves on the back that we weren’t first-years anymore (That was silly of us). Our beloved Jake McVeigh ’11 had only the humble beginnings of what is now a proud moustache and a legen—wait for it—dary mullet. And the thought of studying abroad in France? Nothing but a pile of brochures on my desk.

Things looked different three years ago. If we’re gonna play the “where were you three years ago today game,” then we’d have to mention the Fetish costumes of 2007 when Campbell and I stormed the place in leopard print fleece, the closest thing to an Amazon phalanx (or so we thought) that Iowa had ever seen. Like I said, it’s silly to not want to be a first-year …

We seniors reminisce and anticipate right now from a pretty safe perch atop the Grinnell totem pole. On one hand, we’re filled with resplendent memories of the Fetish parties of three bygone years (well, maybe not resplendent memories, if you catch my drift, but memories nonetheless). On the other, the fears of joining the “real world” are still comfortably at an arm’s distance. Caught somewhere between nostalgia for the past and excitement for the future, we only need to remember one wise dad’s words and take it a bit at a time. There’s some safety in this maxim, there’s some hope that things will improve, but also some wiggle room to allow for the truth that sometimes, things get worse. And when they do, we know they’ll be quick enough to change. I think it also situates nicely into this point in the semester when the weeks left are few, the stress loads are mounting and the five week winter hiatus from school and corn, depending on your migratory patterns, is quickly approaching. But I don’t even need to wait that long—just get me to next to Thursday, when I can party with a 10-lb turkey and a pair of maternity pants.