It was a Sunday night on campus and Jake invited me to run errands with him in his truck. We went to Wal-Mart, where he bought Kashi cereal and vitamin-fortified yogurt. On the drive back to campus, Jake called his mom. “My parents have been extraordinarily supportive of me. I like to check in with them and show my appreciation,” he said.
Back in his dorm room, Jake scanned The New York Times online and mixed a vitamin supplement into his Nalgene. The bottom drawer of his desk was crammed with bottles and pouches of supplement pills, which he claims are important for staying healthy, especially while working out. As a junior philosophy major, Jake lived simply, with a regular routine of attending class, eating in Foss dining hall, and working out at the gym each day for upwards of two hours.
Jake kept a small social circle—and a low profile. “I mainly keep to myself,” he said. “I don’t go out on weekends, and I don’t party. Sometimes I think I should try to meet more people, but there are a handful of people on this campus that I really know and trust. That’s all I need.”
I was part of that circle. As Jake’s neighbor during my first two years at Colby, I found his introspective manner alluring. In a way, he seemed happily distant from the typical oscillation of emotion that takes place in the dramatic social theater of a college campus. Working summers with construction crews and volunteering at the local fire station, Jake returned to Colby each year to study the deeply abstract and intangible theories of philosophy. His only sustaining concern, it seemed, was to keep himself from drifting back into the smoky black despair that nearly washed him away in high school.
Jake usually refrained from disclosing his past, but after I learned his story, I realized why a Colby admissions officer melted down the mold to admit a kid with such an atypical story. Jake’s poignant perspective on life was refreshing in an arena of golden college students. Jake did not necessarily know where his next step would place him, but he certainly understood where he had been. For me, I sometimes found myself caught in a wave of consternation in college, concerned over whether I was achieving some intangible standard of success. Spending time with Jake reminded me of my own struggle with depression in high school, and I could safely recognize how much I, too, had grown.
As for Jake, he credits his serenity to his Colby education. Philosophy courses have opened his mind profoundly and helped change his perspective on life. “I consider myself such a different person now, much more perceptive and at peace with the situations around me. One of my greatest lessons is continual: I am constantly learning more about myself and how I interact with other people. I don’t go through the heavily depressive states that I used to.”
He sighed. “It’s a really excited, exciting time, you know? I’m really lucky.”