The C Word

It seems rather odd that a topic which has completely dominated my conversations over the last eighteen months or so seems to have never pushed its way onto the blog. I find it bizarre that I can manage to fit I single word into every discussion/instant message/Facebook thread/long distance phone call but almost altogether avoid posting it in the place I claim to “explain it all.”

This word, you see, comes with quite a few connotations, a fair share of mystery, and more than enough drama to merit its own Broadway show. Around the age of sixteen, if you haven’t automatically inserted it into your current conversation, someone else is surely bound to. Friends, parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors, co-workers, you name it, this filthy utterance is not bellow anyone. Before you know it, the word dominates your every move. Your schoolwork, your activities, your interests, your relationships. It slowly morphs from a concept to a worthwhile idea to a plan to a solid decision. And all the while you constantly spit out the word, despising it more and more each time it leaves the tip of your tongue.

Eventually, that C Word becomes a C Place, and you find yourself making plans and changing your life quicker than you can say “College.”

My first C Word adventure began in Northampton, Massachusetts. It was there I fell in love with the small-liberal-arts-school. The place where classes like yoga are legit credit hours, everyone triple majors in whatever she wants, and cookie-cutter students are nowhere to be seen. Smith College is also home to my first big C Word fight. While the beautiful campus on the lake and swarms of empowered women seemed to immediately win me over, my chaperone had other ideas. “You will not go to college with all those dykes; you will become one, etc, etc…” (No comment.)

And while that fight was fought dozens of times, always ending in tears and desires to catch the next bus to Northampton and never come back, I soon realized it was a battle I would have to lose.

My new home became the College Resource Center, a comfortable seat always welcomed me at my counselor’s desk, and the C Word was never neglected in any type of conversation. Making a concrete list of places both my parents and I wanted me to attend was a mêlée in itself: Is it Jewish? Is it close-by? Is the mascot a Fighting Illini?

Side note: Never ask a high school senior what her first choice is. Just don’t do it. We don’t know where we’ve been accepted, we don’t know where we’ve gotten scholarships, and we may not even know what we really want. Just don’t ask. (Unless you have a strong desire to get slapped in the face.)

The C Word continued to guide my life: my free time was not leisurely but rather spent filling out applications, finding essay topics, editing, revising, submitting, interviewing, and waiting.

Waiting and waiting and waiting. The process is even more strenuous than the actual application process.

And suddenly, when we almost forgot that we’re waiting for letters containing the keys to our future, the big envelopes and small envelopes start to appear. We begin to realize that there is hope, we have made it through the storm, and even if we didn’t get everything we wanted, we survived.

For a week, I wanted to hug my mailman, thank him for all the large envelopes stuffed with stickers and pamphlets and letters from professors and deans and students. Others were not so lucky, believing the USPS mixed up their letters with another’s, hoping the small envelope could only be a mistake.

I never really expressed my gratitude for my college acceptances. I’ll never have any idea if it had to do with the painfully long time I spent on my essays, the overwhelming high school course load I took, or maybe my admissions officer had just gotten an adorable new puppy, eaten a really delicious doughnut, and received a bouquet from an anonymous admirer before reviewing my application. I’ll never deny that I felt guilty complaining over my dilemma of choosing between my top choices (which happened to be across the street from one another…) when others did not have that luxury. I expected absolutely no sympathy in my agonizing stress to reach a verdict before May 1.

And somehow everything worked out. The C Word was replace by Columbia, a word worth saying over and over again, a word to wear on t-shirts and sweatshirts and stationary, and finally a place that I could call home. I tagged a J word, a T word, and an S Word onto my C Word and realized that the excruciating progression of my C Word struggles may have actually been worth the haul.