My Glasses Taught Me About Myself

I was prescribed glasses for the first time in my junior year of high school. The prescription was low, so most my friends just laughed when they tried them on. “Are these even prescription?” they always inevitably asked. They were, of course, but even I barely noticed. What people did tend to notice about my glasses were their thick black frames and the Gucci tag on the arms. I didn’t really need my glasses, I saw well enough without them, but they sure were a fashion statement. I wore them when I wanted to look grown up, a little more sophisticated or like Clark Kent. I wore them only with handpicked outfits. However, in my first term at Lawrence, I began to notice that I wore my glasses often in class, and little anywhere else. When I didn’t have them, class seemed particularly miserable, and I caught myself squinting when I took notes. Like most the transformations that happened in my first term at Lawrence, everything about the way I wore my glasses felt a little more grown up. Somewhere along the way, they became a tool and not an ornament, and I valued them for their pragmatic value and not their brand name. My glasses began to signify my gradual change from a kid into an adult, from fun loving and worried about style to concerned primarily with what works best. When I went home over winter break, I got new glasses— a stronger prescription— and I could see this transformation, this internal struggle between a younger me and the more independent me, clearer than ever.

All this is merely to say that coming back to Lawrence this January has been leaps and bounds more difficult than it was to come here initially in the fall. Just like my new attachment to my glasses, my first twelve weeks (two extra weeks for fall football camp) at Lawrence were a gradual process of transforming into a new person, like any freshman away from Mom and Dad for the first time. Back at home for winter break, I allowed myself to ease back into comfort, regressing into a zone I broke out of in August. I became engrossed and enveloped in familiar scenery, a cozy lifestyle I had gradually spent the past eighteen years of my life building. In six weeks, my proud, “adult” self unraveled, and like the so-and-so picking out the thickest black frames he could find, I was an anxious and nervous kid again. “I don’t want to go back to school, Mom, do I have to?”

Of course, I did. Winter term was coming. But something was terribly different upon my return to Lawrence. The mood was off. There had been a time when I couldn’t wait to jump on the first plane out of Colorado and start new life. Now I just watched the calendar wither away and dreaded the New Year. This time, there was no longer any foreign excitement or mystery to the grand adventure of first leaving home, drawing me out of my comfort zone and into a new place with new people. When I left to come back at the end of my break, I clearly understood what awaited me back in the Great White North: assigned readings, Freshmen Studies, op-ed articles that I didn’t know how to write — not to mention subzero temperatures. But why was this so hard? Did anyone else feel the way I was feeling?

Perhaps what confused me the most was my drastic change in attitude. When I chose Lawrence, it was, in many ways, a desperate cry for adventure and liberation. After having grown up in the same house for my entire childhood, I wanted to get away as fast as possible and as far as possible. I was as excited as I could possibly be to be away from home. Yet, twelve weeks after the launch of my self-experiment, I wanted nothing more than to be back at home. Maybe in growing up I had come to see that I was not as adventurous for new experiences as I once thought, that my adventurousness was merely a phase, like my thick, black Gucci glasses.

Leaving home the first time was not hard, though I felt like it should have been. What did strike me as difficult was that in my attempt to break free of my younger self, I had found out that I was still desperately attached to him. I wasn’t afraid of leaving that comfort zone, but of leaving it permanently. In my weird internal struggle, the outcome seems inevitable. Someday soon, home will not be the home it was before. Each new time I go home, it will be less and less the place I left it and the old parts of me will continue their slow growth into a newer, more permanently adult me. It is absolutely terrifying, in a way I was blind to before, and it has made coming back to school so much harder than it was coming in the first place. Lawrence has, and will, continue to change me, despite the lures of the comfortable life I’ve left behind. The transformation is inevitable. I will, after all, need my glasses to see and not to look good.