Identities after first year prompt anxiety

Illustration by Greta Burton

Last Thursday, the Frank Manor House lawn was carpeted in sunbathing, frisbee-throwing, indie-listening, procrastinating Lewis & Clark students, which can only signal one thing — the year is almost over, folks!

Just as Portland explodes into cherry blossoms and blue skies, students are preparing to cram for finals and then, at least for a lot of us freshmen, head straight home. I know that as my first year here comes to an end, the prospect of spending summer in my childhood bedroom (which was unceremoniously changed into a home office the second I left) is a little daunting. I, for one, spent far too much time there in high school to want to be back so soon. But as I sat on my picnic blanket, I could not help but ask myself. Why?

Looking around at my peers that day, laid out on the lawn in Birkenstocks and crop tops, piercings glinting in the sun, amateur tattoos being fried by UV rays, it dawned on me. Basically everyone on this lawn looks how I wanted to look in tenth grade. And we are all going to have to explain these new and integral facets of our identities to our parents.

That is right people! What may be praised on our liberal arts college campus in Portland is going to cause some serious stirs back home. The beauty standards of Zoomers with less than straight- laced sensibilities are definitely not the norm across our hometowns. As cute as thrifted bodysuits and veganleatherharnessesare,isthat enough to spare us the judgment of our families? I can almost hear the sugar-sweet condescension and feel the side-eye of grandparents, aunts and neighbors.

In the face of such askance looks and backhanded compliments, what is going to happen to the quirky college droves?

The issue was not isolated to my experience. Several students on the lawn shared these sentiments.

“I mean, yeah, the blue hair is going to get some comments,” one student, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “But that’s really not the most significant change, you know? Like, I’m more myself than I could have ever been in high school. I have no idea what that’s going to be like, going back home.”

As I continued asking around the fair-weather crowds, more students gave their perspectives.

“I think I can safely say that the most pressing concern about going home isn’t my tattoo,” another anonymous student said.

Clearly, the masses are very concerned about the effect their new looks are going to have on their family back home. According to another anonymous source, student affinity groups on campus have been discussing “resources for students returning home to unsafe or unsupportive environments.” If this writer may speculate, providing some full coverage concealer, brown hair dye and septum piercings that can be flipped up into the nostrils would be a great start.

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s what they’re focusing on,” my anonymous source said in response to the speculation. “I think counseling and peer support networks are what’s needed here. You get that people are not focused on cosmetic stuff, right?”

College is a transformative experience, and a lot of us wear our individuality on our sleeve. Going home is either going to mean putting some things back in the closet, or dealing with the scary prospect of keeping them out in the open. Either way, we have changed. And no matter what we are going home to, we can be proud of that.

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