Judgment Day

Two Thursdays ago, the lives of 52 Williams sophomores changed forever.

One of them was sitting in my English discussion that morning, minding his own business, when his Blackberry buzzed.  Despite a class policy against cell phones, he opened the newly received e-mail and was suddenly grinning from ear-to-ear. “Hey!” he announced excitedly, “I just got JA!!”

Yep, it’s that time again… JA decision time.  For now, the chosen ones have two weeks to think it over, weigh the pros and cons of accepting a year wearing the purple shirt versus a much more glamorous life studying abroad or a much less frantic life as a regular Williams student.  But when we get back from break, it’s on.  Once again the new JAs will descend on the campus as an over-enthusiastic mob, grouped in giddy pairs playing board games in Paresky or climbing trees in Science Quad or eating lunch in Driscoll.

I look back on JA dating as one of the most fun weeks of my entire Williams career.  Even removed from the context of the Junior Advisor position, it’s a great concept: get to know twenty-six of your classmates, better.  It was weird, at first, to have to sit down and actively engage with people that I didn’t necessarily know very well.  I remember my very first date- Bingo in Baxter Hall- and how it felt like I was just babbling incoherently the entire time.  Luckily, I got over my social anxiety quickly.

Really, there wasn’t much time to be nervous; it was a whirlwind of a week.  I didn’t have any time for anything else (we were advised explicitly to forget about homework for the duration), but I would still do it again in a heartbeat.  It was almost like being transported back to First Days, as we were given the unique opportunity to return to a no-holds-barred-get-to-know-you mindset.  Remember those first couple days of college, when it wasn’t weird to go up to a complete stranger, introduce yourself, and strike up a conversation?  JA dating was like that… with more Jenga.

It’s going to be bittersweet, probably, to see the new JAs out on their dates.  Suddenly, my class of JAs is going to be on the outside again, observing the curious mating ritual along with the rest of the laypeople.  Suddenly, we’re old news.

Still, I will never forget what it felt like to be a brand-spankin’-new JA; the memory of my own decision day is burned into my brain for eternity.  Mainly because it felt like an eternity, that day.  Unlike this year, when the decisions went out promptly at 11:30 am, last year we were made to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Shadowy rumors were going around, “Check your e-mail at midnight!” … “The e-mails are coming out at noon” … “Definitely by 1:30”, before credible word came through the grapevine- three o’clock was to be the judgment hour.

Three o’clock.  Smack dab in the middle of my Scandinavian Literature class.  Sorry Professor Martin, I have absolutely no idea what you were saying about death metal as it relates to Jens Lien’s “The Bothersome Man” on March 19, 2009.  My notes from that day are a bunch of panicked scribbles.  I spent the minutes leading up to 3:00 covertly texting my friends about how I thought I was going to vomit.  I think I left to go to the bathroom twice during a fifteen-minute period.  I was a nervous wreck.

Finally, I got the text that (please excuse my dramatization) literally changed my life. A friend, sensing that I was about die of anticipation, used his connections to find out my status.  “You’re in!” the text message said, and he had to spend the next ten minutes convincing me that he wasn’t joking.

I was in.

The problem is, I can’t be “in” forever.  The crowning of the new JA class is just a reminder that the Junior Advisor system is like the Circle of Life, and I am a JA dinosaur.  Even though it feels like just yesterday I was going on Co-dates and just moments ago I was meeting my Frosh for the first time, it has been an entire year since that fateful decision was handed down.

With a month and a half left, I’m not ready to be done with this journey just yet.  Still, I am growing increasingly aware that I need to appreciate it all while it lasts…  I’ll be an empty-nester soon enough.

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