A long line of daycampers files noisily past, chattering as they go. Some of them look at me strangely, and okay, I guess a teenager sitting on a log and scribbling in a notebook isn’t the most normal thing you could run across, but there are weirder things out there. Right? It doesn’t take long for them to disappear, though, and I have nothing to distract me from wishing I’d remembered to bring my camera along. I can hear birds chirping and water running and in the shade of the army of tall trees surrounding me, it’s not too hard to pretend that I am pulling a Thoreau (or something like that) and writing alone in the woods. Soon enough, though, I realize that I am chewing on my pen (gross) and that I can hear the nearby clanging of construction and the whoosh of traffic rushing by. People walk past every now and then, and dead leaves crunch under their feet with every step.
Maybe this is what college is going to be like. There’s so much empty space, so much elastic freedom. I’m sitting on a log and writing and it’s magical because I am sitting on a log and writing on a college campus. I don’t belong here, and maybe it’s the incongruity that makes this magical. Nobody even realizes that I don’t belong here, but I’m here anyway.
I love the feeling of not belonging, to a certain extent. It’s like being invisible and melting into the wall and pretending that I don’t exist, until I am really just not there anymore. It’s sitting on a log and writing and feeling people’s gazes skip right past me. It’s the magic of invisibility. Maybe I’m just obsessed with this because I have tried way too many times to take candid pictures of people only to have them turn around and glare at me because I’m pointing a camera at their face; maybe it’s just because there is something really and truly magical about being invisible. There’s this Radiohead song called “How to Disappear Completely” and the singer just keeps repeating “I’m not here” over and over for part of the song. It fascinated me at first. If convincing himself that he is not there is the final stage of disappearing completely, it’s kind of chilling to think that it could be possible to convince yourself out of existence. In Harry Potter, in Lord of the Rings, in all the other fantasy books that I read when I was younger, invisibility was a gift. Invisibility helped good win out over evil. There was always a purpose to slipping through the background unseen–invisibility wasn’t employed just for the sake of disappearing for a little while. It was to be so good at not belonging that no one even noticed.
Maybe that is what college is going to be like. A lot of quirky people don’t necessarily fit together very well, but if everyone is unique then everyone shares a common characteristic. I don’t know if that actually makes sense or not, but that’s what college is for me right now. It’s finding people who know how to not fit in, even though they’ve learned everything they need to do to fit in. Right now, there are all kinds of people waiting in a box labeled “college.” I haven’t necessarily met them yet, but some of them think like I do and some of them think so differently that I can’t understand them. Some of them will get me right away, and some of them I’ll have to struggle to explain things to. All of them know how to not fit in, but have learned the right things to say and do and the right way to act over the years. Everyone knows how to be invisible, but no one really needs to be. It doesn’t get much more idealistic than that, but I haven’t had a chance to realize that college isn’t magical yet. Maybe college is really and truly magical and in a year I’ll be at some really amazing school meeting up with amazing people who get me. Maybe I won’t. I really don’t know what college is going to be like, and that’s part of what makes it so exciting. It’s the incongruity that’s magical, after all.