Six years ago, I was a lanky freshman misplaced in the University of Arizona’s Coronado Dorm, where I unfortunately spent the majority of my free time during the first two months of school. I went to bed at 10:30 each night and wrote letters to my then-boyfriend every single day. For a new college student, I had a pretty healthy routine, but believe it or not, normalcy isn’t everything, even when you’re at a crossroads. Everyone around me seemed so happy and acclimated with their new lives, yet all I could say to myself was, “This is what all the college hype was about?” I couldn’t relate to a lot of people in Coronado, the biggest party hall on campus. I missed my significant other, who was quite a catch but obviously not the one, and I thought talking to and about him constantly would distract me from this reality. My roommate was a sweet fellow Californian, but very sorority, if you know what I mean, so I didn’t have a built-in dinner or going-out buddy.
When I mentioned this to my older brother Kevin during a teary phone call, he told me to do what he did during the first week of his freshman year at Cal State-Chico:
“Go to the nearest Pet Smart and buy a fish. Bring it back to your dorm and go knocking on doors. After somebody opens the door, introduce yourself and the fish and ask if that person would like to take a walk through Coronado. Then you’ll have a new friend.”
I laughed, knowing all too well I lacked Kevin’s charm to pull off that kind of move. He’s one of the most social, gregarious people you’ll ever meet, and while I have a lot of close friends now, I’m painfully awkward, so there’s no way I could have done that with ease. After a week of moping in my room and lying to my roommate that I was attending tons of parties, I joined a political club, where I met my awesome buddy Dyanna (whose wedding I was just in…as the maid of honor!), Ry, and Joey. They made me feel much better about my place at the university, but I still felt unsettled. Why didn’t I love it yet? Was something wrong with me?
This is the part where I finally weave “Glee” back into the post. Episode one, season four opens in NYC, where Rachel Berry is studying as a performing arts student. Her dance instructor, portrayed by Kate Hudson, is a frosty, drunk bully who prides herself on belittling the newbies. Like some of the kids at McKinley High, Hudson’s character makes fun of Rachel for being Jewish. She’s hard on her just for the sake of being a tough teacher, and Rachel doesn’t understand it at all.
“I bet you were a big star in Iowa,” Hudson’s character says.
“Ohio,” Rachel corrects.
“That’s even worse.”
Rachel continues taking guff from her instructor but assures everyone back home that all is well in Manhattan. Sure she calls best friend Kurt and her mother several times a day and has a slutty roommate, but things are just peachy. Rachel finds solace at three am, the only hour of each day in which she feels comfortable showering in the coed communal bathrooms. That’s where she meets Brody, a seasoned student at the performing arts school who assures her things will improve. She can’t see this right away, as her boyfriend/ex-fiance Finn is in the army and hasn’t contacted her in two months. But they’re forever, Rachel insists to Brody, who advises her to be open to new experiences, embrace her new life in NYC, and “add new memories to the old ones.”
It’s clear she isn’t totally ready to break away from her McKinley existence yet, but I’d give it a few more episodes. She’ll fall for Brody, just as I too fell for a guy I met within the first week of college. I hid it from myself until junior year, but it was obvious to others from the very beginning (and when someone pointed it out, I ripped that person a new one. The lady doth protest too much). That’s the thing about new beginnings: you may think you’re not ready to file away your former life, but you’re usually more prepared for a blank slate than you give yourself credit for.
By the end of the episode, Rachel calls Kurt in tears and admits to struggling with the whole post-high school thing. Her instructor is a monster, she misses her military boyfriend, her roommate is getting busy, and she’s harboring feelings for a cute classmate. That was the beginning of my freshman year in a nutshell, and you know what? Similar to Rachel, I was confused. UA ended up being my favorite place in the world, I just needed some time to adapt. Rachel’s character will thrive in New York. Perhaps not now or even for much of this season, but she’ll get there, as shown by her musical rendition of “New York State of Mind” at the end of the broadcast. Singing will help her move forward, just as my lifelong goal to write pushed me through the lonely, uncertain days of freshman year. I ended up finding a home for myself at the college paper, which was truly a life-changing experience and the best thing that has ever happened to me. I just had to wait until I was three semesters into college to get there 🙂
She’ll also have to decide where to go with Finn. Dating someone in the military isn’t easy, especially when you have to stop yourself from thinking about a new guy in your life. The series needs Rachel and Finn to be a couple, but it’s pretty lame of all these teen dramas to continue trying to keep high school couples together forever. Sorry guys, but it doesn’t happen much in real life, and for good reason. Rachel and Finn have bigger things going on than their relationship with each other, or lack thereof.