Here’s the deal, prefrosh: I really don’t care whether you come here or not. I don’t mean to sound callous or as though I don’t care about you; that couldn’t be further from the truth. I care about you so much that I want you to make a decision that’s good for you. (There are probably a few decisions that are good for you, of course.)
But you already know that. You already know the answer to all your questions, prefrosh. And you know the answer to the most important question of all, at least right now: whether or not you want to come here for college. You know it, but sometimes it’s hard to see or hear it. So if you’re still unsure, it helps to do two things: Cultivate some silence and take some time.
Silence and time are my two favorite things, along with nut butters, and they really come in handy when it comes to making a decision. Let’s deal first with silence. Silence is the most precious and beautiful thing in all the world. It’s loud out there, so sometimes we forget what silence really is. Silence is, in the obvious sense, the absence of noise—so, in other words, lock yourself in an abandoned bathroom stall and stay there until you’re on the brink of insanity—but it can also be positively cultivated (i.e. it’s not just the absence of people talking and music playing, but also an experience that you have to produce).
So how do you produce silence? Well, first of all, lack of noise helps, but if the gentle strains of Joni Mitchell or the swelling notes of Gregorian chants are conducive to your thinking, I approve. The real noise that you’re trying to shut out comes not from music or audio books but the people on the worldwide web.
Yes, it’s true. Once you’re locked in the bathroom stall, you need to turn off your computer and cell phone. Don’t read Wesleyan vs. Vassar or Wesleyan vs. Middlebury or Williams vs. Wesleyan vs. Amherst or Wesleyan vs. Tufts threads. You don’t care about anyone’s D’s or S’s experience visiting Swarthmore and finding that it had a below-average nightlife. You don’t care about what anyone else thinks, and you certainly don’t care whether or not they think Wesleyan is more or less prestigious than any other school.
Because your computer and cell phone will be off, you will also be unable to receive emails and texts from your distant relatives, asking you urgently what school you’ve decided on. As you will communicate with nobody, you will not have to picture anyone’s anxiety or judgment. These articles and these anxious relatives are noise. They interfere with the signals you’re trying to hear.
So, silence: Reading guides, articles, and books about how to choose a college is like reading Sparknotes instead of figuring out a book’s themes for yourselves (and let’s all pretend that you would never, in a million years, do that).
Let’s deal now with time. Silence doesn’t really work without time; time is the container into which silence settles. When I talk about time, I’m really still talking about silence.
Fill these thinking days with silence. Live a monastic existence, but shower semi-regularly. Eat simple meals off of a white dish. If people try to talk to you, stare at them blankly until they go away. Lie on the floor. Sit under tables. Exercise. Moisturize. Pour blueberries into a trough and eat them one by one. Freeze two spoons and lay them over your closed eyes. Raise your arms as high as they can go. Chew gum. Do sand art. Break large sticks over your knees. Drag your fingernails through bowls of nut butter. Eat whole carrots from the ground.
Prefrosh, I could give you reasons to go to Wesleyan, and I could give you reasons to avoid it. I could tell you about the brilliant and hilarious professors, the laid-back, non-competitive students; I could tell you about the sometimes oppressively politically correct attitudes on campus or the heaps of snow that covered campus and subzero temperatures that persisted from January to March. But that doesn’t matter.
In a year, you’ll be finishing your freshman year at some school, or you will have dropped out; those are pretty much your two options. In two years, you’ll be a sophomore; in 10 years, WesFest will be a memory. Maybe it will be where you decided to come to Wesleyan. Maybe it will be where you decided that Wesleyan was absolutely not the school for you. What you do this weekend could be important, or it could just fade into some general memory. Lock yourself in a bathroom stall, do the aforementioned exercises, be quiet, and choose. Then all you have to do is live.
Davis is a member of the class of 2017.