The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

Moving in Place

A letter to my first-year self
Moving+in+Place
Eva McCord

​​Hey Auj,

I wish you would be vainer.

There are so many things I could say about your first year. That Global Society is going to be a lot more boring after your first quarter and that you should take a classic Sosc instead. That you shouldn’t rush into the Math 180s sequence immediately because you went to an underfunded public high school that did not prepare you for that, and you have nothing to prove just yet. That you shouldn’t waste your time trying to rush social organizations you don’t truly care about. But God, more than anything I wish you’d be vainer. When the left side of your face starts looking a little out of sorts, starts to swell, get weirded out. Throw a fit. Call your mom. When she tells you to get off the Nobel laureate Zoom webinar and to get into the health center, listen to her. When the doctor feels around your face and tells you it might be a salivary stone or it might be cancer, consider telling your professors instead of numbly walking the 15 minutes home and taking your midterm.

When you find out it’s not a salivary stone, when you find out what it is—a largely antibiotic-resistant cousin of tuberculosis you should be cursing the gods for giving you and thanking them for not putting it in your bloodstream—don’t keep it in. Tell your professors something is wrong then, not after you limp through a final exam. Tell the people who matter to you; you look way more dramatic fretting about showing off the lump when you take off your mask to eat than you would telling them you’re genuinely sick.

You’ll be hospitalized during winter break. It’ll be hard because even though you’re freshly 18 and scared, you’re still an adult now, and any visitors, even family, violate COVID-19 policy. It’ll be hard, once you’re discharged with a fresh PICC line and a drug regimen costing insurance thousands of dollars a day (you’ll meet your yearly co-pay right on New Year’s), to come to terms with the fact that you aren’t going back to Hyde Park just yet. It feels gut-wrenching—to be in group chats, to be on social media, and to see how the world moves on without you. To be frozen, chained with a tether of plastic and pharmaceuticals, will be one of the hardest things you go through.

The silver lining of COVID-induced online education is that you don’t have to withdraw, no matter how much your parents or doctors urge you to. For a while, I couldn’t decide if I hated my choice to continue classes or not. I think I feel both ways, sometimes. On the one hand, a noncompetitive GPA and rocky math-turned-quantum mechanics experience have been a shackle to certain dreams and ambitions. On the other, the release from high-school perfectionism has been one of the most freeing experiences of my education. You try, you grit your teeth and bear it as your body fights to heal. You’ll refuse to give up the one thing that kept you grounded and let you set sights on a future for yourself. I’m proud of you—proud of myself—for that.

It may feel like the end of the world as you go through it, but I promise you it’s impermanent. The experience, the aftereffects, and the bad days will stay with you, but every day after you’re better will feel all the sweeter, a hard-won reward for pulling through.

And you will pull through. Rely on your family, who will have seen you at your best and worst and stuck with you through all of it. Trust in your friends, whose lives have kept moving but who are more than happy to take the time to catch you up. Find joy in reconnection and keep your heart open for new people to come into your life.

The resilience will stick with you—so will the grit and the desire to prove yourself. Be open to the path it takes you on. Run for the position in that nonprofit you think suits you. Pour your heart and soul into that fellowship application. This multiplicity of experience will speak louder than decimal metrics when it matters most: in finding new community and new opportunities beyond what you ever could have dreamed of.

There’s a finality to this coming year that feels nebulous. I’d wager the unease is common in the Class of 2024: my circumstances may have been specific, but starting college in a pre-vaccine pandemic meant that it was never going to be all that idyllic. As I head off into the unknown of true adulthood, I’ll carry all that I learned and gained throughout my time as an undergraduate with me—from the classics of the Core to the wonders of humanity and the universe to the interminable will to carry on.

We’ll be okay.

All my love,

Audrey

Audrey Scott is a fourth-year in The College.

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About the Contributor
Eva McCord
Eva McCord, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Eva McCord is a third-year in the College and 2022 ICPA First-Place Reporter who, contrary to her knowledge (or lack thereof) on which colored Sox is the correct one to cheer for, is pretty good at writing about sports. When she isn’t covering the latest chess tournament or on the field, Eva is either making edits on her latest Viewpoints column, collaborating with other columnists as an illustrator, or tweaking a tote bag design as The Maroon’s merch designer. In a past life, Eva was the 2021 Michigan Journalist of the Year, interned with the Detroit Free Press and USA Today as a 2020 Free Spirit & Journalism Scholar, and served as a guest speaker for Journalism Education Today.
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