It’s my third year as a First-Year Mentor, and this year, my mentees — unintentionally, I’m sure — made me feel ancient. Over lunch at Nolan’s on 33rd during Orientation Week, I gave my mentees my perspective on the social scene at Hopkins, and one made a comment to the others about how I have years of experience here. As in, “We should listen to what she has to say.”
I wanted to put my head in my hands — not out of disappointment, but for fear that crow’s feet were sprouting from the corners of my eyes and white hairs from my scalp as we sat there, eating our dining hall stir-fry. But later, when I looked in the mirror, I thought, Years of experience? Really? Me, who the other freshmen keep mistaking as one of their own?
I had always heard that college was supposed to be not only the best time of my life but also the most transformative. As a senior in high school, I imagined the kind of person I might be four years down the line. Would I smoke herbal cigarettes and play hacky sack? Would I get spray tans and wear frosted eyeshadow? I soon realized my college student stereotypes were based on early 2000s chick flicks and, therefore, horribly outdated.
Still, when I got to Hopkins, I thought my years on campus would change me in a more significant way. It’s true, I look a bit different than I did in high school. I have more freckles. I got contacts. I no longer wear my hair waist-length and ridden with split ends. But aside from that, it can sometimes feel like I entered college with a protective varnish that has hardly been chipped away. I am still the same insufferable “newspaper kid.” I still frequent the Spotify playlists I made back in 2018. I still eat cereal for dinner too often.
The other day, while meal prepping for the upcoming week of classes, I found myself chopping Kalamata olives for a Greek pasta salad, nibbling on pieces from the cutting board here and there. Then I paused, my IKEA knife hovering above the shiny skin of the next fruit. I thought to myself, When did I start liking these?
As a kid, I used to pick out Kalamata olives from salads and give them to my mom, who gladly accepted. I wrinkled my nose at their bitter taste and purple flesh.
I don’t remember the moment when I realized I liked Kalamata olives. But, standing there in my kitchen, I started to run through all the foods and drinks I had discovered a love for since leaving home. Iced oat milk lattes. Nigiri. Dijon mustard. Avocado. Aloo gobi. Cottage cheese. Red pears. Turmeric tea.
I’m not claiming to have gone on crazy culinary adventures as an undergraduate. But this list is evidence that, though I don’t sit on my balcony smoking herbal cigs at sunset (I don’t even have a balcony), and I don’t have a spray tan technician paint me orange every month (that would be a terrible look on me), I have changed in more ways than are immediately obvious.
It is clear to me now how, though small, the changes I have undergone since starting college have accumulated. I am recognizable, but I am definitely not the same. Exhibit A: I have a tight-knit group of friends and a long-term boyfriend when, in high school, I was afraid to let anyone get too close. Exhibit B: I can run a whole mile without stopping. Exhibit C: Someone who had known me in high school told me: “You look so much happier now.”
So maybe college hasn’t transformed me in any radical way. But I’ve nearly finished my first jar of Kalamata olives, and that’s a start.
Abigail Tuschman is a senior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. majoring in Writing Seminars and Natural Sciences. She is an Editor-in-Chief for The News-Letter.