I remember the day I first moved to Ann Arbor. It was a very typical, almost archetypal University of Michigan “freshman” experience.

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I remember moving into South Quad as a timid (but eager to “break out of my shell!”) Honors freshman and being bombarded by a neat arrangement of new friends, thanks to my Move-In Maker roommate. Before I had time to unpack my posters of indie bands and boxes of string lights (because that’s how people decorate their dorms, right?), I was whisked off to the cafeteria — that social jungle of sterile surfaces and outdated wall decorations — where I engorged myself on a tray of tofu and chickpeas. I was going to “try out” vegetarianism in college.

The conversation at the table was fast-paced and brutal, but I managed to stay afloat. Soon after, we ran off to play a game of pick-up soccer at Elbel Field like the energetic, fun-loving freshmen Wolverines we were learning to be. During the game, I got stomach cramps from all the chickpeas and thought about the boyfriend I had just broken up with (because that’s just the inevitable course of events when a couple goes to different colleges, right?). Later that night I called him, saying I missed him, of course.

After getting bubble tea and devouring free samples from Jimmy John’s minions scattered around campus — all the while proclaiming numerously how we couldn’t “wait to explore Ann Arbor!” — the focus of the conversation quickly shifted to parties. We shared with one another the catalogue of parties we had been invited to on Facebook at the various frats we had minimal-to-no connection to. “G.I. Joes and Army Hoes could be fun … ” “High-lighter party! Oh, but you need a wristband to get in …” “What’s a foam party?” We eventually settled on a “Blackout Party,” and scrolled through the Facebook event.

“Wear white,” the event page read.

Thinking nothing of this incongruous instruction, we obliged, and headed out the doors of South Quad in the shape of a 20-deep crew of freshmen all wearing white t-shirts. We looked ridiculous, but at least we had a “good ratio.”

We wandered through a block party on the way over, and realized almost immediately the grave mistake we had made. Of course the party was a cruel joke. Of course we were instantly recognized in the crowd. Of course we endured endless jeers of “Freeeeeeeshmaaaaaaan” from congested porches. Of course we attempted to laugh it off and party on like normal. But after several unsuccessful and uncomfortable attempts to get to the keg, we resolved to give up — at least for that night.

We began our trek back to South Quad — carrying our white shirts like truce flags and our solo cups as red as blood spilled on a battle field. (On our way down Hill Street, a benevolent upperclassman advised us to throw out our empty solo cups in order to avoid the “Minor in Possession” experience. Thank you, whoever you were).

We were clueless, and while I can’t say that night was fun, I look fondly upon my failed attempt at partying my first night of college. And while I can’t say that I’m still friends with all 20 of those people or even that I would even recognize some of them should I pass them on State Street, I did make a few friends — best friends, actually — several of whom now share the same co-op with me.

I’ve had what I consider to be a fulfilling three-and-a-half years at Michigan so far, but I can feel things beginning to change.

Now, instead of staying up for 6 a.m. sunrises and Hippie Hash with friends, I wake up at 6 a.m. — to go student teach at a high school. Instead of gorging myself during “lazy breakfasts” of never-ending dorm pancakes with chocolate milk on the side, I inhale five-minute breakfasts of off-brand cereal and rush out the door toting a half-full coffee thermos with an “American Express Brokerage” ad on the side. Instead of wearing overpriced jeans from Delia’s with names like “Jayden” and “Olivia,” I slip into overpriced “professional” pants from Express with names like “Editor” and “Columnist.” Now, I have button-downs, cardigans and a semi-complete LinkedIn profile. Now, as I make sure I can graduate in May, I hear echoes of “Just take whatever interests you!” from Honors peer advisors, and think, “Fuck you.”

Over this past Winter Break, I visited a newly-graduated friend’s apartment in Hamtramck, Mich. I sat in a sparsely decorated living room as the conversation somehow morphed into a bleak synopsis of what life is like after college. In a span of 20 minutes, we discussed the pull of graduate school, a “not bad” day job at Qdoba, announcements of wedding engagements on Facebook, tweets from some guy at that one party, how unwalkable Detroit is, the evolution and inevitable falling-out of certain friendships and the night we first became friends after an excess of peppermint schnapps.

Toward the end of our talk, my friend had said something like, “I don’t know anyone who is enjoying their first year of life after college right now.”

Last year at this time, I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Ann Arbor. I had had it with the Saturday football crowds, the same, incestuous groups of people at every party, the rotating choice between studying at “Ambrosia or Espresso?” (NEITHER!), the unquestionable praise of Zingerman’s and TEDx and the Farmers Market, the Timberland boots of South Campus and the leather backpacks of Kerrytown, the Arbor Vitae shows I don’t really care about, the overzealous rush to reserve seats for Restaurant Week and the impending culinary takeover of the whole goddamn city by Sava herself. Needless to say, A-squared felt exponentially smaller every time I walked to and from the Diag.

But now this claustrophobia has turned into coziness, and I’m going to have to fly the coop (er, co-op) soon. Waking up before sunrise every day and not seeing my friends until I’m back home from teaching is a gradual dip into the reality of a working post-grad life, and I can’t help but feel a peculiar sense of loneliness around alarm number four that goes off in the morning, when I finally force myself out of bed and shiver over to the shower. I know I still have friends and parties and bullshit for now, but I understand that soon these will be replaced by acquaintances from work, with whom I will “get drinks” with at bars on the weekends.

I know I should be worrying about getting a job and making money while also contributing to the world in a positive and influential manner. I know I’ve changed and matured in many ways, and have a stronger grasp on who I am and what I want to do with my life (ish). But part of me feels like I’m still the clueless freshman who just wants to have friends and a sense of belonging — and maybe even have a party to go to.

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