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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont


I’ve been in college for over a month, and I have one thing to say: I miss being taken care of.

I miss having someone storm into my room and tell me that it’s a pigsty. I miss having someone buy milk and restock the fridge. I miss having someone make me rasam and urulaikizhangu (roasted potato) curry.

Most people get excited about college because they crave independence. I was no different. As my friends and family know, my mom has been like a hawk, always alert and ready to pounce if my brother or I dare step out of line. And the fact that she works from home didn’t help matters either. She more than made up for my dad’s tendency to prefer sleeping on airplanes than in his own bed. It was always easier to slip things past him … especially when he was jetlagged!

Of course I was scared to leave home, especially since I was coming all the way from California out here to Chicago. But to say that I wasn’t looking forward to it would be a lie: I was more than happy to slip out of my mom’s control—I mean, care—and finally have a chance to do things on my own. I insisted to my parents that I’d be more than capable of surviving on my own, thank you very much.

I might just have to eat my words.

Taking showers is the worst part. My mom is convinced that I’ve turned to dousing myself in perfume rather than stepping into the cubicle-like showers of my residential college. Apparently, her heightened senses allow my mother to smell my Tommy Hilfiger-essence through the phone.

Coming in a close second to my extreme dislike of hair-ridden shower stalls would be doing laundry. I currently have to do about three loads. Doing said loads requires me to lug an overflowing hamper down three flights of stairs to the basement. It also requires me to pay six dollars to put my three loads through the washer and dryer. I’m seriously considering just buying my 23rd pair of underwear. The only thing stopping me from doing that is the lack of space in my closet.

My mom tried desperately to organize my room when I moved in, neatly setting up my printer, desk organizers, fan, desk lamp, and some other small things on my desk. I’m proud to say that a month later I’ve successfully cluttered my desk with laptop cables, phone and camera chargers, a tube of Icy Hot, Dayquil caplets, folic acid and iron supplements, journalism assignments terrorized by my lab instructor’s red pen, tickets from events during orientation, slips from the package room, cups and bowls, water bottles … and other things that I’d rather not say in these pages. Suffice to say that I’ve taken to studying on my bed with my backrest rather than bother with cleaning up my desk.

I have also found myself longing for something that I thought, wrongly, could be replaced by oily pizza and curly fries.

Yes, I have started dreaming about mutter paneer and naan—which, sadly, has resulted in my waking up with telltale damp spots on my pillow. Who would have thought that greasy veggie burgers and soft-serve ice cream wouldn’t fulfill my needs?

To somewhat remedy that situation, I spent 40 minutes sitting on a bus last Sunday just to get to Target. There, I stocked up on everything from microwaveable Thai noodles (finally, spicy food!) and Easy Mac to Wheat Thins and pepperjack cheese slices. I then had to lug five full bags back on the bus, from the bus stop back to my dorm, and then up three flights of stairs to my room.

Oh, how I miss my dad’s Mercedes.

You could say that I’m not exactly living the way I thought I’d be living. But that’s not the only thing that I’ve been surprised by since starting college.

I came here knowing what I was getting myself into, given my plan to be premed while completing a journalism major in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. What I didn’t expect was that it would be this hard to cope with the journalism aspect of my supposedly well-crafted four-year plan. Turns out that, despite all the Word documents I’ve put together mapping out how my premed classes will fit in with my major requirements, I’m not as good as planning as I thought I was—or rather, that planning doesn’t always mean things will work out as you had hoped.

I still remember what the Medill faculty and students said when I first visited in April: “If you think you can write, you can’t.”

I’ve finally realized what they meant. I can’t write—well, at least not by Medill standards. When it comes to news writing, I’m still not cutting it with my leads. When it comes to making ethical choices, I’m still not decisive enough. And then there’s my “voice,” the one thing I thought I had going for me. It turns out that Medill intends to change that, too.

It’s not easy to cope. And it’s certainly not easy to have to make decisions on my own. It’s been tough juggling everything the past few weeks, especially because I’ve been very sick and have had to medicate myself with Theraflu and DayQuil. There hasn’t been anyone here to take care of me, to “call me in sick,” to comfort me.

As teenagers, we like to pretend that we can do everything. That we don’t need our parents, that we know what we’re doing simply because we’re legally “adults,” and that we’re ready to fly the coop—even if it means flying 2,000 miles away.

I think I know better now. And I’ll be more than happy to come home for Thanksgiving, even if it’s only for a few days.

But if there’s one thing that I certainly don’t miss, it is arguing with my mom when she nitpicks about trivial things.

Just to let you know, Mom: I haven’t made my bed since I moved in. And sorry, I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon

Pavithra Mohan is a freshman at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.