Monday, December 12, 2011

"The truth is…," Lauren Ziegler

"The truth is…"
Lauren Ziegler

A peanut among giants, the curly-haired girl weaves through her opponents until crashing into the last defender.  With a bang, she falls to the ground.  The referee flings a yellow card onto the field, and now the curly-haired girl has a free-kick.  Only a goalie between her and the goal.  She winds up to kick, the ball floats through the air, the goalie stretches out her arms, fingers kissing the ball, but the ball flies through. Goal! She has scored the game-winning goal and runs toward the bleachers where her family eagerly awaits her. 

With overwhelming happiness, the seven-year-old beams with excitement showing her missing front teeth.  Upon reaching her own cheering section composed of her mom, dad, brother, grandmom and granddad, and of course her Aunt Traci to take pictures of every moment, she is swarmed around like bees attracted to honey.  Through the group hug that then ensues, this small peanut feels whole because all that matters is the presence of her family.

“Be back by twelve,” yells her caring, but seemingly overprotective mom.
“OK. Whatever,” the teenage girl calls back, slamming the door behind her as she leaves for her friend’s house.

Why does she need me to be back at twelve?  It’s so early. I’m eighteen now. I think I deserve a little bit of respect.  The independent teenager cannot grasp the reason for the lack of freedom at home.

How did the change occur from a little, curly-haired girl to independent woman?  Why do we want to be released from our parents when we become teenagers, but our whole world is our mommy and our daddy when we are children?

College seems to be the much-needed transition for teenagers to fulfill their desire for freedom.  The transition has a little of everything: the good and the bad, the new and the familiar, and of course the friends who become our family, but each person’s response to the transition varies from overwhelming excitement to timid acceptance to utter disapproval.

When looking back at my initial transition from home to college, one word for me seemed to entirely envelop the change; every story, every distinct moment was awkward.  Now don’t misunderstand me. This was not a bad kind of awkward, but in fact, quite the opposite.

Finally the day I moved into Furman University, a place to call home for the next four years of my life.  Although my mom, my dad and I left our house later than anticipated, we were confident that we would arrive before the one o’clock deadline.  As we progressed towards Greenville, the new city to call home, Janel, my Freshman Advisor but also my best friend from high school, texted me: “When are you going to get here? Everyone is already moved in! Also you have to turn in your immunization papers before you can come to the dorm.”

I had postponed responding to the email that Furman had resent to me several times regarding my medical papers.  Since I waited until the day before I left to see a doctor, I carried these papers in hand to personally deliver to Furman University.

As we arrived on campus at quarter of one, I went to turn in these forms, but the infirmary was closed.  They were on lunch break until one-fifteen.

Ugh. Now I had to wait thirty minutes, and I’d be late to move in. What a great first day of school.  Once Mrs. Browne returned, I submitted the papers, but I was scolded. What the heck? I was in college where I was supposed to be free of adult supervision, and I was already being disciplined!  Although being reprimanded was far from comfortable, Mrs. Browne had a right to be angry for my late papers.  Once that was all over, my eyes slightly watering, I rushed over to Blackwell, my dorm, began the heavy lifting and forgot the unfortunate scolding.  Who knew I would be exercising by carrying all of my stuff up four flights of stairs.  Before I had completed unpacking, Mary and Janel, the Resident Assistant and Freshman Advisor, announced to everyone on the hall that the time had come for fun and games.  My heavy lifting was put on hold.

Our hall played the game Huggy Bear, a seemingly juvenile game.  As Mary yelled a number, we were supposed to form a group with that number of girls and hug each other.  Simple enough, right? Well, let the games begin.

Mary yelled, “Huggy Bear three.”

We hustled to find two other girls; my group succeeded.

Huggy Bear six.”

My group joined with a group near by because three and three is six. Weren’t we just so smart? Only Furman students could figure this game out!

Huggy Bear five.”

Now Mary made the game a little more difficult.  We had to consciously exclude someone from our group.  The turmoil within me built.  Deciding between my competitive nature with an overwhelming desire to win and a desire to be kind to ensure I make friends was a tough, yet manageable decision.  I decided on the making friends option.  As I willingly stepped out of the circle, I realized this game was definitely a great game to invade awkwardly into other’s personal space especially because I had only known these girls for a few minutes.  Although the game was strange, Huggy Bear was a fun way to become instantly more comfortable with these strangers who would become my friends.

With the introduction to college life, family life changed.  Although I will always be related to my family members, my hall became my new immediate family.  Games like Huggy Bear allowed us to mingle and to become social with one another.  Our sense of community built with every new group activity.  As we explored campus, we walked around wide-eyed, lost with no sense of direction, simply sticking together as freshmen seemed to do.  As we became acquainted with each other, a feeling of connection formed.  We began to change into a genuine family who would tend to each other’s needs; we would be there when someone needed a shoulder to cry on or help with studying.  This community of friendships that we were in the process of building helped us to become one big, happy family.  Or at least one that lived together despite our differences.

To create more friendships that first night, we met the boys that would be called our brother hall and the girls of our sister hall.  This encounter was made even more awkward when Mary tag lined the game, speed dating.  Basically how the game works was the two lucky guys entered a room where eight girls awaited them.  People introduced themselves, awkward silence, talked about where we are from, awkward silence yet again, giggled at the awkward silence, then discussed an original topic that one of the boys usually instigated.  So after the process happened two or three times, our group utilized our intelligent brains to avoid awkward silences.  We devised a way to make the game more fluid.

The two boys crossed the threshold and took a seat.  Then, we spoke in order of how we were sitting in the circle.

“Hi, I’m Madison from Columbia, SC, and I want to be a math major.”

My turn. “Hey! I’m Lauren from Hilton Head Island, SC. Undecided, but considering pursuing pre-health.”

Next. “Anna from Tennessee. Biology.”

“I’m Lily from Georgia, and I’m going to be a BioChem major”

“Caroline. I’m from Gastonia, NC. Undecided.”

“Hey, I’m Rachel from California and Biology major.”

“Hannah. North Carolina. Communications.”

“Sarah. South Carolina. Communications”

We finally gave the boys a chance to speak, and they answered the preliminary questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your major?  Then we had a small amount of time to get to know these strangers who may become our best friends.  Time’s up!


The next two guys entered the room, and we repeated the entire process until we had met everyone on our brother hall.  Why were we introduced into this uncomfortable situation when entering college, especially on the very first night?  Speed dating may not be necessary, but the dating was definitely helpful to meet a large number of people in a short amount of time. 

Since the RA (Residence Assistant) and FRAD (Freshman Advisor) kept us so busy, time flew by without a moment to miss home or feel home sick in my opinion.  Our lifestyles immediately changed into the busy and somewhat hectic lifestyle of college; Furman was transformed into home without notice.  Our new friends on our hall, the sister hall and the brother hall became our brothers and sisters who we would bicker with, but still love.  Our RA and FRAD became like our older siblings/ parental figures who were there to listen, to give us advice and to help with the adjustment.

But the toughest adjustment of all would be that I had to share a room with another person.  My personal, private living space to be shared with someone else.  Luckily, my roommate, Julia, seemed really cool.  The first night simply seemed like we were having a sleepover.  We talked about all the usual slumber party topics: friends, home, family, and of course, boys!  Then as the clock stuck two, we decided we should go to sleep.  Then next morning Julia seemed to have something on her mind.
“So,” Julia began, “I have a question for you.”

“Yea,” I replied, unsure of what she would say next.

“Do you—talk in your sleep?”

I laugh and reply, “Yes I do. Did I talk to you last night?”

“Ha ha, yea. You were mumbling, but then you asked, ‘Where are the towels?’”

I laughed harder. Wow! I hadn’t even had a chance to warn my new roommate about my sleep talking.  Hopefully, she wasn’t too afraid to be my roommate. Awkward situation? I thought ‘yes’!

Living with someone else in a dorm room was like sharing the room with your twin—your twin that you were meeting at camp for the first time as in The Parent Trap.  My roommate had actually become like the sister I never had.  We were beginning a new journey of our lives together, and I couldn’t wait for our many thrilling adventures in the future.  Although I have had several awkward moments since arriving at Furman University, this new Furman family made college seem like home. 


I no longer sprint up and down the soccer field as a little peanut, but I still weave through my opponents.  The difference is that my new opponents are my own fatal characteristics.  They battle against my discipline, my work ethic, and my desire for excellence.  With the independence I have found in college, I have had to become my own person. What I do now is my choice, and I must now decide what my future holds.  I may not be the shortest or littlest girl on the field, but I will always have massive obstacles in my way that I can only achieve through being a responsible young woman and having support from my Furman family.

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