I forgot how hard it can be to go to Duke. Not just the academics either. I mean the constant need to be “on”. The pressing need to always be going somewhere quickly with someone to do something. I knew the classes would be hard. I was prepared for the steep incline in homework hours to hit me like a brick wall. I wasn’t prepared to come back to a campus that has stayed exactly the same and shown me just how much I’ve changed. Duke feels like a sweater that I lost at the back of my closet only to dig it out five years later and have the sleeves be too tight and the hem too short. I’ve felt overwhelmed since day one by the pressure to fit everyone’s memory of me and slip back into old skin, but I shed that skin for a reason.
I’m surrounded by new people. Actually, they are old to me. But their presence is new. While abroad, I had a select few number of people who I knew well and spent quality time with. That smaller quantity meant that I also had less scheduling conflicts, and less people vying for my attention. Which meant I had to say no to less people. Which means I also had to assure less people that it’s not personal when I can’t hang out and assure them that I still like them.
Between class, gym, food, sleep, extracurriculars, and friends, it feels like there is barely enough time in the day. Before I left, I often felt the same way, but it’s as if, in being back, people expect exponentially more from me (including my professors) because I have been gone for the semester. I’m playing catch-up in class, in West Union, in the gym, at the turn up, and it’s absolutely exhausting.
I’m fighting hard to hold on to the mentality that I had last semester, but Duke makes it so easy to doubt yourself. You think one more pre-game won’t hurt even if you REALLY don’t want to go. Or that taking that extra class won’t really take up TOO much of your time. Everyone else is doing it. Everyone else seems happy, well-balanced, successful. I am not. None of those. But I am transitioning, and that’s hard, and I am going to allow myself the time and space and energy necessary. It doesn’t just happen overnight.