Freshman year sucks and that’s okay

Eric Ahern

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Walking through Redwood High School as a senior, I notice that the hallways feel smaller than they did when I was a freshman.
As I take my time getting from class to class, being bypassed by hordes of 13 and 14 year olds anxious to beat the bell, I wonder if my class looked that young when we were in their shoes—and I wonder what we look like to them. And although for a moment this makes me feel out of touch with what it’s like to be a freshman, I remember it all too well.

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Illustration by Eric Ahern

I remember every embarrassing and tragic detail associated with the freshman label. I need more than one hand to count the amount of times that I did something that now forces me to shake my head in humiliation. This may sound overly dramatic, so I’ll be explicit and subsequently publicly disgrace myself a little bit more.

On the first day of school, my freshman year, attempting to find a shortcut to the quad, I set off an ear-piercing and far-reaching alarm system by opening a restricted door in the back of the library, clearing out the entire room full of upperclassmen and faculty. There was no sign, at least that I could see, but that didn’t keep me from blushing.

Two days later I wore a thick, long-sleeved flannel with nothing under it to my first Back To School Dance. I ended up in the center of a mosh pit, which felt more like a furnace as it tossed me around like a rag doll. By the end of the night, I looked and smelled like I had gone swimming in something unsanitary. I’ve learned to think and plan ahead.

In a freshman football practice, a teammate knocked me down with so much force that the school trainer diagnosed me with a bruised tailbone. I’m not sure what hurt more: sitting, or telling people why it looked like I was hurting when I sat. Now, I—well, now I don’t play football.

When I look back on my embarrassing, painful, humiliating experiences as a freshman at Redwood, I want to laugh and I want to cry. But given the opportunity, I wouldn’t take any of it back. Not in a heartbeat. The ninth grade is a unique opportunity to learn about life, and about yourself. Take it from me. I crashed and I burned, I lived and I learned, but there is nothing I would change about it.

The old saying is true; you get out what you put in. And I could say a lot about my freshman experience, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t put myself out there, if I didn’t give it my very best and more. I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy it.

So to all freshmen, don’t be afraid to screw up. Try, try, and try again and then fail every time. Be upset with your failure, but have the wisdom to grow and to learn from your mistakes. I wouldn’t be anything now if it weren’t for the mistakes, friends, and choices that I made as a freshman.