My First Jack-O’-Lantern
Alex Jin, ‘21, Arts and Sciences
It had been two and a half months since I first arrived on the Commons, and I was about to carve a pumpkin. It was my first time carving pumpkins – even though I’d lived in the American south my entire life – and I was so excited to finally make one! The event took place on the steps of one of the Commons houses, and these steps were chock-full of students designing their own pumpkins. After a while, though, I started to realize that though I was in the middle of this crowd, people seldom stopped by to talk to me, ask about my design, offer help, or ask about my day. At the same time, I heard those very conversations going on all around me. I felt so very alone.
Was I not interesting enough to talk to? Was my design not good enough for someone to ask about it? Did I really belong here? I began to ask myself these questions, and being lonely in that sea of people seemed to be my answer. I remember setting down my pumpkin and my carving tools, and searching my phone for people I could contact, just to talk about how I was feeling.
“Hey, I’m not ok. How can I get help?”
“Where are you? Stay there. Hold on, I’m coming”
My VUceptor and I ended up chatting in one of the corners of campus, and he shared that he too had felt lonely on campus, but he’d met some people who became worthwhile friends. He reminded me of the support groups I had on campus and buoyed by the fact that I had at least one person who was willing to listen and talk to me, I decided to go back to the event and finish up my pumpkin.
I carved the Mandarin word for light, 光, in my pumpkin. This had two reasons – firstly, I thought it was a meta moment for the very word being lit up by a candle to be light, and secondly, I wrote it as a reminder to myself that even when it seems like everything around you is dark, and lonely, there will be someone who comes to light it back up. A gesture, a person, an action. I’ve found that to be true at my time at Vanderbilt so far – there have been so many incredible people that I’ve met who have lit up my life, and they have truly made my college experience that much better.