I wrote this over the summer, waiting in the middle of a college campus while my cousin Melanie was going on a tour; one of the greatest privileges of this summer was the chance to take her on her first college visits. There's a strange symmetry to this: I was 17 when I started college a few miles from her house, and she was 8 when she came with me on my Boston college visits. I still remember coming out of my Olin interview to find her sitting on the floor of the Admissions office, drawing a picture in crayon. Now Melanie's 17 and her sister is 8, and I watch them walk across campuses together figuring things out, and I blink. How did time pass? I remember holding both these kids as babies. And then I wonder what the hell our parents must feel like.
Thing is, once you choose a school, you choose a life, a world - you get wrapped up in it, and it's a moot point to consider what-if. Your friends, your memories, your late-night moments, the people you see stars with, run down the hallways in pajamas with, the professors who relentlessly press you to improve, who quietly encourage you to reach onwards. The restaurants who learn your name and orders, the rituals you cook up for the papers you seem to endlessly be writing, the passing of time, the endless moments of being young and alive that you remember later as bright pinpricks in your memories of college. You choose a universe, and you don't know where it'll lead - only that this is the world you'll get for a few formative years of your young life, the world you'll get and not another.
It's hard for me to imagine the friends I'd have or the route I'd take or the person I'd be any other way, but for Melanie the multiplicity of alternatives stretch out before her now, the first such crossroads she has really had. It's daunting, the feeling that your life is in your inexperienced teenage hands, but I bite my lip and watch her straighten up a little more with each tour, each conversation, look it in the eye, step forward into owning herself. You can feel the green shoots of her young adult self breaking through, visibly crackling through the soil.
I am so proud.