When my mom moved me into my freshman dorm room, she was upset that my roommate wasn’t there.
“I understand she’s a junior and that you can’t force her to move in today, but my daughter is going to have to sleep alone on her first night of college, and that’s not fair,” she complained to my RA, a too-handsome senior who played guitar, studied biology and loved his Christian faith. He and I would become relatively close, having late-night chats about his seemingly paradoxical academic pursuits and religious beliefs.
Sad, concerned, proud and emotional, my mom left, and I sat on my bed.
I began to cry.
“I don’t know anyone here,” I cried on the phone to my high school ex-boyfriend. It was August 2014, and after a tumultuous and difficult summer, we had agreed to take a break. But I loved him like crazy. He was my rock.
“You’re Rachel Greenspan,” he reminded me. “Go down the hall, introduce yourself and make a friend.”
So I did. After meeting people on my floor, I texted Stacey, whom I had met at orientation, and met up with her and her roommate, Victoria. The three of us went to dinner, ran into Sarin, and just like that, I had found my three best friends.
Unbeknown to 17-year-old Rach — who was rambunctious, emotional, loud and funny — that first day would prove to be indicative of the rest of my college career.
I am Rachel Greenspan. That’s my name, but it’s more than that: I am unapologetically and undeniably me. But today’s Rachel Greenspan is different. In some ways, she’s better — more careful and reserved. She doesn’t text boys when she knows she shouldn’t, she tries not to make the first move, she usually goes to the gym, she often chooses salad over fries.
I don’t know when I changed. Somewhere between losing 50 pounds and getting adequate grades, maybe. Or, was it feeling depressed while studying abroad in Paris? Was it before or after moving into an apartment off-campus?
I’ll never know.
And in other ways, I miss the old Rachel — the one Tanner reminded me to be when I felt scared. She was fearless. She was more confident than anyone. She said whatever she wanted. She loved pizza, she loved her body, she loved her chubby cheeks and she thought she was the funniest person in the world.
But hindsight bias can leave you breathless. I was wild. I didn’t understand that Fun Rachel wasn’t the whole me. I didn’t understand that every interaction could be something other than a comedy performance to overcompensate for my imperfections.
The thing is, college wasn’t what I thought it would be. It wasn’t late-night discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, falling in love early on, being the unapologetically confident-but-overweight girl everyone loved to admire, running the newspaper, hating Greek life, getting a 4.0 and publishing my poetry.
It was everything I was too young to understand I needed.
College was: becoming more self-conscious than I ever knew; hating myself; loving myself; heartbreak; heartbreak again; realizing best friends can be soulmates; thinking I had every disease, all the time, and needing Tali to promise me everything was fine; learning I don’t need to be the center of attention all the time; finally understanding that my mom is right about everything; realizing my public school sex education was incredible; admitting I’m not a great student; getting too drunk and crying about anything and everything; finally finding the man I’ve always dreamt of, but in the eleventh hour; realizing my brothers are my best friends; hanging out with Vic, Stacey and Sarin at midnight instead of doing homework; realizing how insanely lucky I am for the family I have; and discovering how much I love spending time alone.
I can’t write my college experience into a thematic and organized column. I can’t put four years into 650 words.
But I can at least introduce myself.
Hello, world. I’m Rachel Greenspan. I’m wild, I’m complicated, I’m loving, I’m happy and I’m ready for you.
For the people who introduced me to myself:
Tanner: I’m sorry I wrote about you. Thank you for everything.
Pipe Dream: College and Pipe Dream are synonymous for me. It’s hard to believe this is it. This office has watched me through it all. I am my best self with you. Gabby and Orla, I’m sad you left me alone in the last semester, but it’s been an honor to carry on the legacy of 2014 Pipe Dream, both with and without you. Nikki, Shauna and Katy, you are so fabulous. I can’t wait to watch Arts & Culture grow with you. Kara, your drive and beauty (inside and out) inspire me more than you know. Thank you. Georgia, I can’t wait to see where the world takes you — and where you take the world. You have taught me forgiveness, grace, editing, incredible humor and so much more. Amy, you are the Carrie to my Samantha, the sunshine on any cloudy day. I love you all so much.
Deb: I can’t wait for you to join me in the real world. Never let anyone stop you from sparkling. It’s an incredible thing to be your big.
Mommy, Daddy, EJ, Eva, Mike and Rob: I am so lucky to have a family as supportive, full, warm, caring and close as ours. Thank you for loving me despite how insane I am, and for being the only people I don’t worry about judging me.
Kaskeset: It’s been a trip. In the end, we are family. Tali, I love you, and it’s an honor to be your fourth sister. Thank you for answering my frantic texts, and for sending me yours. You’re my therapist, my confidante, my best friend. Alison, “gravity will always bring me back to you.” Kewbie Pies, you’re the cutest, and I can’t wait to watch you shine over the next few years — you know I’ll be back for every semester show.
TZ: Baby, you’re like lightning in a bottle. You know the rest.
875 + Leor: Damn. Here goes nothing. Meg, being your friend makes me feel cool, even though you are secretly a ginger. Sar, from the first night when you slept over, I knew we were in it for the long run. Vic, you inspire me in so many ways, and you have singlehandedly changed me so much. LeeLee, you are a superstar, and I always knew we’d become this close eventually. And finally … Stavina/Steve/Stave/Stace, thank you for making college as wildly incredible as it has been. You are the reason I love this place so much, and I can’t wait for the next hundred years of being your best friend. Ladies, I love you all so much. Our apartment is what I am most sad to leave.
Rachel Greenspan is an assistant arts & culture editor. She was the assistant copy desk chief from 2015-16.