The First Week of College: 2020

When the coronavirus landed in March of 2020, I isolated myself, streamed countless movies, and began preparing for the possibility of college in the Northeast. Having just graduated from High School in Colorado Springs, I spent my “waiting for college”  summer attending protests and volunteering for the Biden/Harris campaign. Every week or so I got an email that threatened to delay or blow up  in-person enrollment at Emerson College in Boston. A lot of my friends were staying home through the fall because of COVID fears; their schools mothballed campuses for the fall. We were all just waiting for this grand new chapter of our lives. In these weeks my mom and I got creative and charted different potential paths  if Boston didn’t pan out for the fall. I anxiously waited for Emerson College’s decision – to open for the fall, or go online only. I got the email in June, Emerson decided to open for in-person classes. When my roommate and I arrived at our freshman dorm room we were told to quarantine for the next forty-eight hours. Over this time my roommate and I bonded by perusing Tinder and browsing our new neighbors’ social medias. During a few Zoom meetings we excitedly looked for future connections and friendships in the faces on the screen. The anticipation for socialization reached its apex.

Emerson College’s Freshman Dorm, The Little Building (2020)

There is an expectation set for young men that college is the time for conquest, both sexual and recreational. It’s an expectation that is set from movies like Animal House and people in power who accept “locker room talk” as part of the status quo for masculinity. For generations these notions have been passed down from father to son. My Dad was a former Southern frat bro who was now overwhelmed with anxiety that his only son wasn’t showing the same type of interest in women he’d once shown. We’d once bonded over sports, but in High School I took a massive interest in theatre and film and he began questioning my sexuality. When he’d make comments about a woman’s body I’d never respond. When he’d make dirty jokes I wouldn’t laugh. This was all on my mind going into my first week of school, and yet the sexual desire was absolutely there. Perhaps it was because I’d been cooped up for so long in isolation. Perhaps a bit of that old-fashioned desire for sexual conquest had wormed its way into my psyche. When my roommate and I were let out of our dorms for the first time, I was looking for girls. I quickly made friends with a few guys on our floor. One of them was a New Jersey comedian who was dead set on getting a couple beers that night. My roommate had already planned a smoke session and I was not one to say no. Boston that September had a nice cool breeze and we walked around the city for a while before returning to the Boston Common. A bunch of other Emerson kids were gathered around and chatting, we approached them and my roommate offered up his hacky sack. There was a group of about twenty of us. We were all wearing masks and anxiously fidgeting in this new age of confusion and worry. I spoke too much and tried to get everyone’s names. One girl, who was a brunette with brown eyes, introduced herself to me and then shot me a glance. We locked eyes for a second. I darted mine away and then back again. The next time the sack came my way I immediately kicked it towards her. She wore a neon mesh shirt and seemed athletic, at least more athletic than the theatre kids and film majors that made up the circle. That day I spent the rest of my time seeking the same thrill of those little glances. I got on Tinder quickly, got a couple numbers. I was gorging myself on the possibilities of the sexual freedom that came with this new chapter. My first week became a series of needless flirtations. When school officially began I was worn out from the social expenditure. I didn’t hook up with anyone, and felt stupid for having considered that to be my only goal. I spent that week half-participating in conversations and I’d diverted my attention away from the experience of being on a campus for the first time. I felt like there was this pressure to do everything all at once. I wanted an entire college experience in the shortest amount of time possible. My advice is to slow down when you get to school. Take a second to really live in the moment and embrace the anxieties of being somewhere new. The brunette and I caught up after we’d settled into our living situations. We started going on dates. I realized that I wanted to slow things down and settle into my new home. By week two I’d experienced somewhat of a social burnout. It was good to take it a bit easier.

By Jackson Bailey

Jackson is a rising Junior at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts majoring in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and minoring in Political Science. Jackson enjoys writing about masculinity, love, and stand-up comedy. In his free time, Jackson enjoys snowboarding, playing pickup basketball, and reading.

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