Confessions From A delinquent I-Houser

    As the stress of finals and upcoming graduations loom, I’ve recently been listening to a laundry list of my friends’ regrets about their college experiences – and though I’m not graduating, I’ve been forced to think about a few things I wish I could have done differently, too.

    The foremost of my regrets is the promise I made back in September, when I pledged to be an active member of the International House community.As you may have guessed, I’ve basically failed dismally at upholding the pact.

    This revelation has been in the back of my mind all year, ever since one of my roommates told me he sometimes feels like “”two and a half”” people live in our apartment. The half, he explained, was me.

    I tried to put my feeling of inadequacy aside, but it was again brought to the forefront at a party two nights ago – held, coincidentally, in the apartment adjacent to mine. Another I-Houser, who I had seen numerous times during the year but never really got to know, turned to me, asking “”You live here?””

    Well, in theory I do.

    In my defense, when I applied to live on campus for my junior year, I didn’t know exactly how intense a stranglehold my schoolwork and assorted extracurriculars would have on my life. I naively assumed that 24 hours in a day would be sufficient to polish off my to-do list, squeeze in a few hours of sleep and interact with all of my cool, cultured neighbors. Of course, we all know what happens when you assume – and here I am, nine months later, left with a lingering feeling of guilt about my broken word.

    One of the major bonuses about I-House is that there’s almost always something going on. The official listserv is abuzz with cultural celebrations, game nights, homelogs and marketplaces, to the point where I (ashamed) had to unsubscribe myself due to the sheer volume of events clogging my inbox. It’s easy to wonder how someone could live in such an environment and not be involved, but stories like mine aren’t uncommon – especially among my fellow American students. I’m not completely sure why that is, but I have a few ideas.

    I’m a classic case of “”coulda, woulda, shoulda,”” brought about by my fall-quarter epiphany of “”Wow, I’m extraordinarily busy.”” There were a few organizations in which I originally wanted to get involved, but really just couldn’t set aside the time to hit up the meetings (usually, because they all take place when I am here, at this newspaper). I think a big part of the low-interaction problem is that American students admitted to I-House are, at least in theory, already heavily involved in campus activities.

    The application process is apparently rather selective, so those of us invited to live there often already have a multitude of other commitments that preclude us from branching out. Granted, I know people who made it work much better than I have, but I’m no magician.

    With that barrier, it’s hard to become more than “”half a roommate,”” and I have a feeling that’s probably why I stopped trying. Now, whenever I pass someone I vaguely remember from a first-week party or introductory social event, I have to avert my eyes to avoid feeling the uncomfortable stare of “”Whoa, you’re still here?”” I’m 99 percent sure it’s an imaginary manifestation of my guilt, but just the same – I feel it.

    For those reasons, when the time came to reapply for I-House next year, I was more than a little bit torn. Yes, I probably could have finagled my way into another year through some less-than-honest manipulation of what I’ve actually attended and been involved with, but in the end feeling like a waste of space won out over the simplicity of sticking around. The only thing worse than sucking at something is when everyone else knows you suck at it, so I figured it was better to throw in the towel now than make a mockery of a pretty awesome place to live.

    Along those lines, a friend of mine and I were recently talking about children and how they’re quick to squander personal growth opportunities presented to them. For example, he said, if you give a kid a block of clay and ask him to create something, half the time he’ll probably trade, lose or eat the clay rather than put in the effort to make something out of it. While my friend mentioned it as a metaphor for missed opportunities in general, I couldn’t help but note the significance that it had on my own situation – I am that child, whose still shrink-wrapped clay is gathering dust in a box beneath his bed.

    All I can really do at this point is wonder about what my current situation would be like if I’d done things differently from the start. Would I have learned another language, studied other cultures or helped feed a starving child? Hell if I know.

    But I do have two weeks left – maybe it’s time to get unwrapping.

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