Retrospective Of A Depressive
A respite from the pressures of college
Thoughts of my first year in college make me wonder if I ever really knew the spontaneity of youth. When I think of college, I think of the pain and confusion I experienced there. I was young and a little immature, and the pressure and social chaos affected me. I don’t know exactly when, but at some point I stopped enjoying doing things.
Yet, one night many years later I returned from work and lay down with the dark night outside. I listened to the radio and stared at the ceiling as I am wont to do. Suddenly it crossed my mind that I had a good summer right before the September I returned for my sophomore year. I remember being on the beach in Long Island, making sand castles and getting a tan. The sun was so hot it slid off my skin, and I felt smooth, calm and carefree. The radio played music from the movie Fame. It was the summer of 1978. The seagulls flew overhead as I dove in the waves. The water was dark and salty. The sun, the ocean and the beach were as they can be only when you are young. Those were golden sea-salt days.
I was eighteen and had just shed the “freshman fifteen”, those pounds you gain when all they feed you at school is starch, fat and sugar. I was shy and a little sour, the way people are when they realize they are not really beautiful. I was virginal, just getting enough confidence to show interest in men. I was inexperienced, never having known desire, or what it was like when a man touched you that way. It was summer, and I did not know what was coming, or that good and bad things would happen. I was just content, not really happy but content to breathe the salt air, build sand castles, listen to the gulls and watch drops of sea slide off my skin as my hands worked the sand.
I had just returned from a rocky freshman year, being alone in a new state. I believe I bravely faced the freshman campus scene. I played social politics, pulled all nighters, came home drunk, overate, made and fought with friends and felt altogether a bit out of my mind during that first year away from home. Home was in the Bronx, which was rough in itself. However, I was surrounded by family and friends in the Bronx. In Pennsylvania, at school, it was like being in a new dimension.
I survived it. I took the summer to recuperate and to try to regain the calm that I had previously known. But nothing would ever be the same. I really don’t know if it was hormones, or if the chemical imbalance had kicked in.
All I know is, I had begun to withdraw. Particularly, I remember how I had gotten somber, and standoffish. I was feeling out my body and mind, not quite child and not quite woman.
I heard my mother on the phone discussing with her friends the changes in my personality. I stopped playing with my younger brothers and sisters. I spent time alone doing nothing, a habit that would continue for many years. The thought of returning to the pressures of college threatened to open a well of panic within me. Looming adulthood seemed scary and unmanageable.
But I recall how electric and how precious, how blue, gold, dark and cool those days at the beach were, those days in the summer before I returned to the havoc of school. There I was kneeling on the sand, taking a moment to lift my head, with eyes closed to the sunshine, preening like a bird in my youth. That summer was a hiatus of peace before the storm.