Allow me to completely misuse the term ephebiphobia for a minute.
Today marks the day that the first year students arrive on campus. There will be lots of them, a diverse group composed of potential doctors, physiotherapists, dietitions and perhaps a few overeager occupational therapists.
They will arrive in their most collegiate outfits, a giant, living, breathing mass of panic-stricken fresh-faced hopefuls. In their hands they will carry letters of acceptance, results certificates, cell-phones. In their hearts they will carry excitement mingled with fear.
When I was a first year, arriving on campus for the first time, I wasn’t all that anxious. I’d lived away from home for half a decade, I didn’t have to deal with the implications of newfound independence or separation anxiety. But I was still awed the moment I walked into my res. Senior students were walking past me, their eyes purposefully unseeing, their expressions reading: We have lives to save. Move.
I wasn’t surprised or even offended. There is always a pecking order when you move into a res, I expected that the only people who would pay me mind would be those charged to do so. So I waited my turn, got some admin out of the way, and moved into my room, oblivious to the conversations taking place in the senior rooms and corridors.
In second year, I barely noticed the first years at first apart from my duties in one of the committees that involved hugging them and making them learn war-cries. So I still missed many of the senior conversations.
As a third year, I have new duties as far as the jaars are concerned, but I have the added benefit of not stressing about my first ever system block in medschool. This means that I can actually listen to–if not fully participate in–the annual debate.
“Oh, great. The jaars are coming,” someone says.
“No way. Already? Someone shoot me,” another replies.
“It’s going to be all grins and giggles and ‘welcome to big-school’. I don’t think I can stomach another year of it.”
Traditionally, seniors anticipate the arrival of first year students as new toys to play with, new specimens to dissect. But ever since our Res switched over to a ‘nicer’ version of orientation very recently, most seniors are just not interested. No-one wants to coddle a first year. That’s what mentors are for. The rest of the res wants the jaars to earn their respect and their friendship. They want them to avert their gaze when they see a senior, to curtsey when they pass a senior, to have a look of abject misery every time someone singles them out for a quick quiz on Residence history. But that is apparently no longer allowed.
So the seniors have resolved to do as they did last year and simply pretend they don’t exist.
Ephebiphobia? The system is changing. With new groups come new rules, new traditions, new norms. I think as seniors we easily grow uncomfortable–maybe a little threatened–when the younger generations come in and seemingly have it easier than we do. They bring strange ideas that threaten to shake the core of our very safe bubble, they bring idealistic perspectives and nauseating positivity that could very easily expose our jaded, faithless ruts.
The first years are coming and although as seniors we are pretending not to care, I think the underlying fear is profound.