Sammi Bray ’25 & Olivia Silvey ’25
Our fall semester has undeniably been incredibly difficult. In personal ways, we have faced our own individual hardships. But, as we all know, the hardships go beyond the personal, or even beyond our Trinity community. Last week, an active shooter in Maine killed 18 people, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. In Gaza, all communication has been cut off from the outside world and the horrific bombings continue. Just a few days ago, the House elected a new speaker who is anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion and voted against the Violence Against Women Act. Yet, we are expected to continue on, carrying these heavy burdens along with our own personal stressors.
College is a time of self-discovery, constant change and multiple new environments. As some of us begin our college careers, we have to deal with being away from home – maybe for the first time – with a group of people we do not really know. After up to 12 years of going to school with the same class, the adjustment to college is very bizarre and challenging. On the surface level, we are introduced to new ideas, new people, new classes and clubs. These are the most obvious changes that we experience entering college.
On a deeper level, this is a time when we are challenged every day, by ourselves and others. We are required to step out of our comfort zone, and this might be new to people as well. A lot of us might have grown up with the same people in the same place our whole lives without having to really reconsider what our identity means to us. We meet peers and professors who hold very different beliefs; we are forced to wrestle with what we understand (or don’t), our morals, our ethics and standards. We might feel that our peers are wrong, or we might realize our own beliefs do not resonate anymore. It is okay to change, to learn, to make new decisions and go back on them. This is all overwhelming, messy and wonderful.
Sophomores and juniors, we are in that middle period. We feel more adjusted than when we first arrived here, but in that awkward transitional phase – trying to separate ourselves from the people we were our first year here, but also trying to push back the oncoming pressure of senior year: should we be thinking about our theses? What do we want to do after this, where do we want to be? How much should we even be thinking about these things yet, anyways? And for our senior friends, it is everything, everywhere all at once. Looking for a job, applying to graduate school, coming back from a semester abroad… the constant, looming thought of the future while also trying to stay present in the here and now. This time requires an exhaustingly precise balance of still succeeding in academics, social life, athletics and personal health (among many other things), without losing sight of what is to come.
That just covers the basics, the things college kids have all faced for years and will face for years to come. When the personal combines with the political, the global and the call for humanity, the pressure becomes tenfold. Our generation seems to be uniquely impacted by these abnormal – but becoming horrifically normal – events: genocide, terrorism, mass shootings (especially in our academic spaces), the pandemic, war and climate change. Some of these atrocities have existed for much longer than we have been on this planet: the first genocide is considered to have been committed by the Roman Empire, and climate change has loomed since the Industrial Revolution. But not every generation has had active shooter drills; we are coming up on only the four year “anniversary” of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, during all of these lifealtering events, deaths and struggles, we are constantly consuming every inch of it online. Every time we stop to catch our breath, a new disaster presents itself to us. Social media, the 24-hour news cycle and cell phones multiply the magnitude of how we feel these issues. They are ever present, impossible to escape and the constant awareness we have of what is going on in the world is a heavy burden to carry. It is not fair, it is not fun, but it is the harsh reality of the hand we have been dealt as young people.
We are not here to tell you to buck it up and smile. We are not interested in corny cliches, or “being the change you wish to see in the world” (sorry, Gandhi). Instead, we want to tell you to not push down your anger or your grief. Let it spill out if you need it to, reach out to other people and feel the pain together. We said college is a time of selfdiscovery, constant change and challenge. It is also a time of connection and shared emotion – no one understands us more than each other. It is not a time to isolate; it is a time to really see each other, hear each other and tell the people around you that you are paying attention to all the things we are struggling with, together.