Tuesday, January 12, 2010

First Day Jitters

It was her first day of college. She had been both anticipating and dreading the day. She prepared the best she knew how. Folders covered in bright geometric shapes were stacked with coordinating notebooks. The astronomically priced text books were in a pile arranged by the course schedule. A pen and pencil was clipped into the bindings of the notebooks, completing each ensemble. The backpack she planned to use sat next to the table. In short, everything was set.

She stood in her cramped bathroom, checking her reflection over carefully. She was dressed comfortably in a sweatshirt and jeans. Natural eye make up paired with a bright red shade of lipstick marked her as a teenager. She ran her tongue over her teeth, ensuring no lipstick had blemished them. It was almost time to go and her nerves were ringing. She swallowed hard, switching off the light. She picked up the text and classroom supplies for her first class, inserting them carefully in the back pack.

She still had 25 minutes before class started. She felt rushed and quickly turned off the lights on her way out the door. The campus was only 10 minutes away, but the walk from her assigned parking lot would be another 10 minutes. She calculated that it would leave her just under five minutes to use the bathroom and be seated. She smiled as she approached her tiny blue hatchback. She just had to stay positive.

As she reached for the door handle, her back pack caught on the branch of the overgrown tree she had parked under specifically for the amount of shade it offered. The abrupt stop caused her to fall forward a step, yanking her arm unexpectedly. It hurt a great deal and tears welled up in her eyes. This was not the start she had imagined. A few deep breaths and the release of the back pack strap from the tree and she gingerly put herself into the car.

Slowly, she pulled out of the space and onto the road. Four blocks later, she was surprised by a herd of deer crossing the street. Although it was an incredible sight, it ate into the very little time she had left to get to class on time. She stepped on the gas to make up those precious lost few seconds when a speckled fawn jumped into the road. Slamming on the breaks, her body rocked forward. The seatbelt immediately tightened, saving her from crashing into the steering wheel while taking her breath away. The backpack fell to the floor, landing on a packet of open ketchup.

She couldn't believe it. Maybe her mother was right. College was not for her. It seemed no matter how careful she had been in picking out courses, purchasing supplies, and making herself believe she could do it, there were little signs telling her to stay home. On the day of her first class, they were multiplying, throwing themselves before her, trying desperately to hold her back from a destiny that was not for her.

She bit her lip, quietly smearing some of the bright red lipstick onto her front teeth. The car behind her honked, propelling her forward once more, no longer certain that the trip was worthwhile. From where she was, there was only one option to get back home. She had to turn and drive past the school. She came to a complete stop at the sign and turned her right blinker on. There was more traffic than she expected, giving her time to take a few deep breaths.

Once clear, she rounded the corner, went one block, and performed a legal U-turn. As she did she thought, "I can turn this around too." She felt empowered by this thought. SHE could turn things around. SHE didn't have to do what the family determined was appropriate for her. SHE had made it this far on her own. At least sitting in the classroom, even for a day couldn't hurt. It's more than anyone else thought she could accomplish.

As the school neared, she pulled her car into the turn only lane and entered parking lot C. It was overflowing with cars, most with parking permits like hers. Enough without one to make her notice. This had not been anticipated. She had expected there to be a spot for everyone and that she would arrive early enough to get one up front. With much stuttering, she drove up and down the rows, finally finding a spot in the second to last section. She parked, grabbed her dirtied back pack, and jumped out of the car. Slamming the door shut in her hurry, she caught a nail, ripping it further down than she could mend it.

The gasp induced by pain filled her lungs with the exhaust of another car just passing by. Sputtering, she closed her hand to protect her finger and headed off to class. She didn't know what time it was and hoped she could still be on time. After making her way through the parking lot, she entered the building and headed directly to her class. She had practiced this a few times over the last week and knew exactly where it was. The elevator to the second floor was out of order. The sign said to take the stairs around the corner. Slightly irritated, she ran tot he stairs. Hopefully they would be quicker. The elevator was usually busy and very slow. She ran up the flight of steps, breathing hard at the top. They were longer and required more work than she had guessed.

Forgetting about her injured nail, she pulled on the handle and felt the familiar stinging. She recoiled it back into the safety of her fist and reached with her other hand. Three tugs later, the door still stood firmly in place. She was bewildered and certain this was all a terrible mistake. She turned around to leave and ran into another student. "I'm so sorry!" she said breathlessly.

"Don't be" her peer replied. "I wasn't watching where I was going. I'm late for my first class. Spanish." In a glance, she took the girl in. She was petite, had an air of friendliness, and an armful of books, paper, and pens. The book on top matched the one in her backpack.

"Spanish 1 with Dr. Vargas?" she said, glad that maybe she had a companion in her situation.

"Yeah. You too?" The smile was reassuring. She followed the petite girl through the unlocked door next to the one she had been tugging on.

"Si. Do you think she might be running late too?" She felt more assured by this chance encounter than any of the signs telling her to turn around.

The other girl laughed as she walked to room 241. "I would say no, but I figured I am here. Why go home?"

"Exactly!" she said, opening the door to the language lab. "Exactly."


  1. Any of this auto-biographical?

    I remember the days of complete nerves over classes. But oddly enough It was not until grad school.

    I like this as it is filled with all the pit falls that I have been through.

    It is well organiozed too.

  2. Somewhat biographical. The pitfalls, except the lipstick issues did happen to me on my way to the school... with some very minor changes.

  3. I like this one a lot. Proud of that girl for trying to turn her luck around! I liked how she thought about it as she made a U-turn...very symbolic.

    Oh my!!! Did these really happen to you? I felt bad for the poor girl but was very proud!

    It was like this for me on my first week of law school (I think I erased the details so long ago, all I remember is being in pain). I was in pain with this girl on her first day...down to the nail jamming.