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The freshman experience: AirPods-less edition

| Contributing Writer
A student walks around campus with AirPods in; the students around them are depicted in black-and-white.Illustration by Mel M.

Silence is ever present in this new existence of mine, also known as freshman year of college. When the silence is too numbing, I resort to the usual pairing of my AirPods and a 2010s playlist. 

There’s just one problem with my justification for this behavior: it is never really silent here. The passing chatter of freshmen who are attempting to find a conversation of any kind and bikers ringing their bells to try to part the sea of people fill the air. The sounds of the conversations about how long the line is at Corner 17 and the constant lawn mowing reverberate through campus. They’re the sounds of WashU. 

But why listen to that when I can listen to Justin Bieber’s iconic bop “Beauty and the Beat”? Besides its masterful lyricism, it brings me back to dance parties in my friends’ basement and karaoke sessions in my mom’s car with my brother, even though neither of us knew the words. The song brings me back to Connecticut winters, the obnoxious chuckles from my friends that I adore, and my dad’s tangents about the stock market that I have grown to enjoy, somehow. I find comfort in those warm moments that colored my…childhood. 

Right, my childhood. I can’t just say “my life” anymore because my life now is so distinct from what it was before. My childhood is a separate entity from what I am in now, whatever that is. I don’t know if I’m ready for whatever I am in right now. I don’t know if I want whatever I am in. My world is now characterized by the unfamiliar and the daunting so sometimes, when the unknown is too numbing, I go back to my AirPods and my playlist to isolate myself from it all. To leave reality behind and reminisce just for a little while.

To Justin Bieber’s dismay, I went for a walk today without him. Quite the travesty, I know. There I was in the middle of the “silence.” In the very “silence” that I have been avoiding for so long. As I stood there, I found a home in the sounds of campus. The yelling of a little kid who was about to touch the infamously-peed-on Thinker on the Rock (thank goodness he didn’t do that) brought a concerned look to my face, one that has likely occupied thousands of WashU students’ faces. The menial conversations of students made me feel content walking down the populated pathways of WashU ten minutes before the hour. The sounds of WashU. The sounds of another community I get to be a part of, another place that I can hopefully one day reminisce on when the bleakness of the world becomes too much.

I will miss the sounds of my former existence on my walks. But if I don’t move on I won’t be able to accept my new community. I won’t be able to fully call WashU a home. Maybe it’s time I fully commit to this new existence. I think it’s time to leave my playlist and my AirPods.

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