For the last year, I’ve been collecting people’s stories to present to the Lehigh community in this column.
My aim was to break the stereotypes some may have about different groups on campus by providing a look into a specific person’s life — their daily routines, worries, struggles and all inherent craziness.
Through the “Day in the Life” series, I’ve been on midnight rides with the Lehigh University Police Department, approached strangers at airports, cried with refugees, sang with TRACS drivers, explored Fourth Street and had many more adventures.
But I started this journey with the belief that everyone has a story, and it’s with this belief still in mind that I present to you my own.
During my senior year of high school, I knew wholeheartedly and with every fiber of my being that I did not want to attend Lehigh. Three members of my immediate family had graduated from this institution and as a Bethlehem native, I was itching to get out of the city where I was born and raised.
So I was miserable when I sent my deposit to Lehigh.
It seemed all of my high school friends were so excited for the possibilities college would bring, but I only dreaded them. I barely even wanted to go to university. I wanted to travel, live simply and meet people while just experiencing all of the spontaneous adventures life had to offer.
But to make matters worse, life threw another curveball the summer before I got to campus. My mother got diagnosed with cancer that May and my family was instantly thrown into a whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, surgeries and intense hardship. It also meant I was to commute to school that year rather than live on campus as the rest of my classmates were.
So in addition to being a full-time student, I had a lot of intense responsibilities — especially at home with my mom.
Commuting made transitioning from high school to college that much more difficult. College to me was just high school part two, but with a twist named cancer. I feared the first-year question of “where do you live?” because I would have to explain my situation time and time again.
“I commute because my mom has cancer, but I swear I’m still normal and cool!” was the gist of most of my desperate responses.
I joined every club and organization I possibly could while staying on campus for as long as I was able to in order to avoid the label of “that weird commuter girl.”
Looking back now though, I realize that absolutely no one cared if I commuted or not. I put so much unnecessary emphasis on the social scene because it just seemed like that’s what you were supposed to do.
So I was bitter about cancer and commuting. I was bitter I couldn’t join a sorority. I was bitter I didn’t get to experience as many parties. I was bitter that I didn’t get the pleasure of getting Hawks Nest at 2 a.m. on a random Tuesday night.
But when I started embracing my situation and what made me a different type of student, I was able to connect with the most genuine people on campus because of it. Instead of worrying about the mundane issues I’d stressed about before, I let go and became a happier, more loving and accepting person.
My first year was tough because I was just so upset about everything — upset about cancer, commuting, Bethlehem, Lehigh — but I learned that you have to make the best out of your situation. For me, I found that balance by extending my consciousness and connecting with other people.
I certainly wasn’t the only one going through a hard time — others were too.
It’s hard to distinguish in the midst of all of the seemingly evil things we are constantly bombarded with in this world, but there are signs of humanity everywhere.
A girl trying to finish lunch alone in Lower Cort before rushing off to class. A woman feeding her baby ice cream at the Cup and the look of astonishment the infant experiences. A boy running to his car from his fraternity house with a slice of cold pizza in one hand and portfolios spilling out of the other.
These small signs of humanity make me realize how we’re all so inexplicably the same. Certainly, we may hide behind the façade of money, looks and personality but we all have the same natural core human instincts. When I get a glimpse of that humanity — as I’ve tried to show you with this column — it makes me genuinely hopeful for the future.
I think sometimes Lehigh students forget to notice humanity. We get caught up in hectic assignments and social scenes and everyday dramas with other people. But at the end of the day, we’re all just human beings trying to get by in this crazy whirlwind of life.
It may sound cliché, but once we start noticing that humanity, we’ll really become human again.
Because it doesn’t matter if we commute or live on campus, play sports or don’t, are Greek or non-Greek, or enroll in any one of the colleges.
We’re still one Lehigh. We’re still all human.
Nadine Elsayed, ’18, is a multimedia editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]