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It’s so over

September 8, 2023

Lucas Dufalla

Last month, after a short, two-week stint visiting my family in China, it came time to return to Bowdoin, just in time for Lobster Bake. What troubled my mind wasn’t the imminent 30-hour connecting flight—my personal equivalent to being run over by a concrete roller in terms of magnitude of suffering. What I actually dreaded were the questions of “How was your summer?” and “Where were you last semester?” that tend to plague late August to early September.

I mean no disrespect to anyone who has asked me those questions out of pure small talk or genuine interest. The truth is, I have always been introverted—nearing antisocial—and the extended period of studying abroad chained to a summer far from Maine distanced me from Bowdoin. Once back, after nine months away, I sat around a booth in Thorne with my friends, some self-described “old-heads,” who were still young the last time I saw them in the fall of my junior year. Scanning the dining hall, I saw underclassmen who had seemingly materialized from the ether, dining and laughing like they had always been here. Their social enthusiasm, much like that of a first year getting drunk for the first time, roared. I felt like that same first year the next day: waking up with a headache and a backpack placed on me by some kind fellow.

At that moment, one question plagued my mind: “Is it so over?”

Later, still stuck in my insufferable moping, I talked to my friend who also studied abroad in the spring and was not in Maine this summer. His features were unchanged, but he felt old like me. Being greedy, egotistical creatures, we once shared a sense that the College “belonged” to us when we were last here. We were comfortable on campus. We had a solid group of friends. We felt a sense of belonging.

Leaving Maine to see the world for so long had prematurely eliminated us from the College. Despite always being a low-on-the-totem-pole NARP, I was comfortably situated at Bowdoin. I had a place here. Now, I feel more like a visitor of a house than its owner.

The one thing that I do have, and comfortably so, are the strong connections I was blessed with early into college. Undergoing the housing lottery ritual tightened the ropes with the guys I’m living with, even if we were far apart physically. Seeing everyone again brought back that familiarity I had taken for granted.

To rationalize why I stopped Bowdoin-helloing everyone under the sun or enjoying biohazardous basement functions, I concluded that I had become an old and nostalgic horse, unwilling to learn new tricks or meet new people.

I felt like this for a number of days. Questions popped up in my head, like “Did I really peak sophomore year?” and “Did I fall off?”, to which I knew the answers were “Yes.”

Classes began, and I stared soullessly at a schedule that sentenced me exclusively to Searles (a building my friends and I colloquially call “the dungeon”) for another year. Turns out, that wasn’t such a bad thing. Walking into that familiar, salmon-colored psych ward brought back a flood of memories. Crawling within it are classmates that I have known forever and professors that have defined my years at Bowdoin.

“I belong here,” I thought.

It turns out, the things that tied me to Bowdoin weren’t gone or relegated to only the Searles dungeon. They had just been moved around a bit and just needed a bit of rekindling. That night, I went out with my friends to a function that felt more like a sauna than a party—but that was okay. Coming back from there, I saw friends I hadn’t said a word to for the length of an entire pregnancy. We chatted and laughed, and I left feeling hopeful.

We’re so back.

David Ma is a member of the Class of 2024.


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