Today was my first day back in in-person classes. After grabbing a mid-morning iced coffee at The Sink, I sat down in a big, comfortable blue armchair in the Mayer Campus Center. As I bent back the pages of Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence” (1920), I was transported to 19th-century New York City. Despite my fascination with her commentary on the complex inner workings of the city’s upper echelon, I couldn’t help but notice a tour group out of the corner of my eye. The spirited guide took a big step up onto a bench, and I had a moment of realization: I really am a Tufts student.
Two years ago, my dad and I traveled across the East Coast to look at colleges. Tufts was the last stop on our trip. I silently jotted down every detail the tour guide gave as we walked downhill from the admissions building, across President’s Lawn and around to the Aidekman Arts Center. After finishing the tour on Tisch Roof, staring out at Boston’s inviting skyline, my dad and I walked back wordlessly to our rental car. We pulled out of the parking garage, my dad took a business call and I sat staring out the window as my eyes filled with tears. The tire rotations left Tufts behind us as we accelerated toward Davis Square.
Everyone I’d spoken to had told me I’d know when I found my college, and my intuition told me this was the place. I’d been working on my Common Application essay for weeks, and I just couldn’t seem to perfect my supplemental writing pieces. “I found the perfect place but I’ll never get in,” I thought to myself.
Now, two years later, I really am a Tufts student. I found the ideal place, the stars aligned and here I am, speed walking across the Academic Quad with a tote bag full of books slung over my shoulder.
In these moments, when I find myself debating the meaning of liberalism in France with my roommate, taking the T to political rallies in Chinatown and chiseling a Byzantine plate in the craft room, I often wonder if this is truly who I am. Am I the intellectually playful Tufts student my tour guide told me about?
The truth is, none of us are. We are each our own beings struggling to balance uniqueness and conformity, scholarliness and spontaneity. Our respective approaches are what make us Tufts students. We each put a different spin on our days in Medford.
When Wharton published “The Age of Innocence”a century ago, I doubt she would have imagined my finding solace between the lines of her novel. Yet, her shrouded message rings true: we are each grappling to fit within the confines of society.
It’s time we start to question: who holds the key to this societal cage? Perhaps by slowly starting to peel back the layers of judgement and vanity that constrain us, we’ll each be able to take steps out of society's suffocating box and embrace the way we show up in this very moment.