Picture it and Write: Freshers
Hi there! Here is my offering for this weeks picture it and write in Ermilia’s Blog Here. Once again the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway enjoy!
It is a truism that the longer you stay in certain places the more youthful the inhabitants appears while you yourself grow old. I find this particularly apt in my own job in the university. While I have been getting older the average age for new entrants has stayed stubbornly the same; around 17-18, every year. This has meant that each consecutive generation of students has looked to me younger and younger with each passing year.
At first this wasn’t so bad. Kind of like how first years look to you when you were doing your leaving cert. They looked younger but not necessarily like babies. As I have entered into my seconds decade within these hallowed halls I have to honestly say that I can no longer tell the difference anymore.
These…. fetuses are not adults! No adult would have skin that smooth or faces that youthful. I bet that half of them have never even shaved. I could have sworn one still had his milk-teeth.
It feels wrong somehow; criminal even. Some of these toddlers I know are now living away from home. Cast off from the cradle, they now have to make a life for themselves in the Big Smoke. How can they cope? Will the be able to use the washing machine? Or take a bath unaided? Can they even eat solid food? The amount of pasta dishes that they go through up in the dorms makes me doubt even that.
Of course domesticity is not what goes through the mind of a typical fresher. They are now in their first weeks of freedom and while the proverbial cat is away, they will play. Drinking, smoking, all manner of substances, nicely mixed with an ever-changing but depressingly familiar debauchery in the Romanesque manner.
It gets to the point that leaving the isolation of my research lab becomes a harrowing experience. No sooner do I turn when I come face to face with what seems like a twelve-year-old smoking a rolled up cigarette. Left turn to the arts block shows me the sight of teenagers smoking something that is most definitely not tobacco. And that is just lunch!
Any attempt to go out of an evening during term time is even worse. The bars and clubs where I and my ilk were once kings is now a sea of too-young faces liberally drowning themselves in smuggled beer and Cheteau Liffey-bank. Worse than the delinquent-drinking that I can so easily picture for each and every one of them. They all have shiny new ID’s which enable them to drink in the open; without fear, and apparently, without shame.
I have been told that these are the nights college is built for. Then boys with their gelled hair and shirt one size too big, the girls in primary colours notable for having less material than an economy-sized handkerchief. There are hundreds of them packed into the smallest venue imaginable and at every possible ‘pretext’ liberal alcohol is sprayed down from on high to the revellers. It is abundantly easy to get stonkingly drunk on a night like this and either the stars or the floor can easily be reached; more often the latter.
With the rank fumes of drink in the air comes romance; or groping, which to a Fresher means about the same thing. Like most rites of passage for these little troopers the magic happens in an awkward, embarrassing manner, right in the open for everyone to see. It is a sight I and those my age are sick of. Not to mention the constant risk of being corner by one of those self-styled ‘romantics’ looking for a bit of an ‘older man’. “No thank you” I say; stepping slowly backwards while avoiding eye contact “I might have jumped at the chance at your age but I have gone on in my years and have discovered something called ‘standards’. You should try them yourself.”
These events and many more occur with alarming regularity for the few months of every academic year. Then something remarkable happens. After one too many nights on the sauce and waking up next to a monster. The students realise that they’re actually in a place of learning and they have work to do. Thankfully I don’t frequent the library much anymore because if I did. That would be the time it changes from a ghost-town to more packed than sardines.
This new-found work-ethic may save them from the examiner’s axe, the odds are usually good. But with that final rite of passage they end somehow changed. The year of hard-drinking and hard partying has left their youthful looks tarnished. Moreover; the experience has moulded their minds. They become cynical, unenthusiastic and grumpy. They become; for want of a better word, me.
So every year as I watch each new crop of Freshers enter through the gates to be whittled down into proper students. I sneer and I drone yet I also remember that ten years ago, one of those was me and that ten years from now, when I am just a picture on the wall, one of those self-same children with no facial hair and boyish looks may end up standing where I am now, getting annoyed at how young they look.