Last year, I watched a stranger try to get ketchup out of a near-empty container. Being me, I couldn't resist saying "aww..." and quietly cheering him on. We introduced ourselves to each other by first name, and then he smiled at me.
"You're a freshman, aren't you?"
I was. How did he know?
"You have the 'freshman glow.' Don't ever lose that."
And he left. I'd heard that from several people by then - that I had the "freshman glow." No one I asked was ever able to tell me exactly what it was, so I shrugged and continued with my freshman life.
I'm a sophomore now and I finally understand.
It's the excitement that people show before they begin college. It's those Facebook posts that say "So blessed to announce that I'll be attending -insert school-! Can't wait to see where these next four years take me!"
It's the Instagram post a few weeks into school captioned: "I love this campus! Love my friends here already. So blessed."
Blessed. Yes. I am. But when did I go from "so excited to be here!" to "I'm so tired all the time and every week is so long?" Somehow, I look at these posts and immediately think, "That person is going to stop saying this soon. That's where I used to be."
I look at a freshman with so much hope and energy in their eyes and listen to them talk about all of the organizations they want to join and all the good grades they hope to get.
And then I think... I wish that never went away. And lately, I'm starting to get it: freshmen come in here and they don't have to see the underlying issues of (American, at least) campus life yet. We were here when racist posts started circulating; we were here for the pro-life/pro-choice arguments; we are still here, frustrated with rape culture, frustrated with so many things that we can't change that we now understand represent a national and worldwide issue.
It's also a personal issue. Somewhere, we forgot that we can't keep running on energy if we aren't recharging it. When did it become okay to lose our sleep, our eating schedules, and every second of "free time" to pursue the perfect grades and all of the organizations we wanted to join?
Yes, the freshman glow is a thing, but I don't ever want to see anyone else lose it. Can we start talking about self-care and actually doing it? Can we keep seeing the good in people and hoping for the best, knowing that great things lie ahead in the unknown, even if we think we have a good idea of what to expect?
This life is ours to live and ours to look forward to. There's a certain glow that we can always look toward, and it's still there - we can't give up on it just yet.