Sophomore year: a (rambling) retrospective

I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.

"Gone in a flash" would be the phrase that first came to mind if you asked me to describe how my sophomore year of college went. Honestly, college in general has seemingly flown by; it doesn't seem like all that long ago I was a high school graduate, thinking of college as the "next big phase" of his life. And yet somehow, I'm on the tail end of that journey already. You've probably heard the old bit about how life seems to move faster as you get older - it certainly seems that way to me, at least.

The scenery is different compared to freshman year, if nothing else. I've traded the empty expanse of the dorm lobby for the living room of my apartment. I've got working internet without having to leave my own abode - though it was only a few hours prior to typing this that I got the wireless drivers working on the Debian installation on my Thinkpad. Unlike last time, I'm not sick, and I'm pretty grateful for that, considering finals week is looming. It's a lot quieter here in the living room than it was in the lobby, except for the unerring tick-tock of the wall clock mounted above the utility room door. The home theater setup me and my roommates collectively built sits against the wall opposite me - a gorgeous 4K TV and subwoofer in addition to a Blu-ray player and my trusty Playstation 2 and Playstation 4. I wish someone would've told me how little time for gaming I would have here, though.

The outside world isn't all that's changed. Skipping class has gone from a moral affront of the worst degree to a last resort if I can't keep myself awake during prior lectures. I've noticed myself becoming much more proactive and confident when it comes to getting involved in campus activities. I'm an undergraduate researcher now - not something I ever saw myself becoming during high school or even freshman year. I got a job offer from Cisco to come work with them in Silicon Valley over the summer. I've volunteered to a great degree to get the good word out about STEM, probably reaching as many grade school children as I did my entire time in high school. There's still room for improvement, though; I told myself I would get involved in hockey but have failed to do so yet, and I've been on the fence about a workout routine for some time now. Maybe putting all that into words will finally shame me into action, or so I hope.

Honestly, with the whirlwind that sophomore year has been, I wonder what I was doing at all during my freshman year. On paper, freshman year was pretty quiet for the most part; classes, some volunteering activities here and there, not much else. Ultimately, I just think I was simply unaware of how far I could truly push myself.

There's a balance to be found between work and pleasure. Some of my fondest memories from freshman year are of me doing inane things with friends, or lazing around doing nothing in particular. I remember a particular afternoon a copy of Watchmen caught my eye in the university bookstore, and I spent several subsequent afternoons reading it on the steps in front of the plinth at the center of campus. It's a really pretty spot, still one of my favorites on campus. The pool surrounding the plinth, the row of trees adorning the linear pools further on that you can just make out if you crane your neck from the top of the steps. It wasn't there my freshman year, but immediately behind where I once read now stands the largest indoor Starbucks in the state, so there's that too.

I wouldn't trade any of those memories for the world, but I wouldn't part with any of my newfound achievements, either; both have their place. I think it does one no good to be on top of the world, but have nobody to celebrate it with. Conversely, I would almost consider my life wasted if I spent it in a purely cavalier manner - there is far too much I want to do, to see, to contribute, to burn it all away on pleasure. I don't claim to know how much of both is right for me or anyone else, mind you; I wouldn't be surprised if I found myself dissatisfied with sophomore year come junior year.

Yet, to a certain extent, I welcome that sense of discontent. I take it to mean that I am holding myself to a higher standard than I did before. At the end of the day, how much more can you ask from someone aside from steady improvement? As long as you know where you stand and where you're headed, I don't think you can go wrong.

So here's to the latter half of undergraduate life, with even more joy and achievements to be had. I hope one day I'll be able to look back on sophomore year with dissatisfaction.