I arrived on campus for the first time back in 2014, when I was young and innocent, and adults still told me I “had potential.”
Fresh-faced, hopeful and whatever else the naïve first-year always is, I strode right into my Totem Park dorm, ready to show everyone how much I was about to excel at being independent.
Then, as soon as my mom left, I went into one of the bathroom stalls and had a panic attack.
I’d been prepared for this though — and for all of the failings of residence, they do make the transition to living on your own a little less terrifying. I’d met the RA’s, I’d met some of the people on my floor — everyone seemed nice and enthusiastic. They were going to be my safety net. But if they were as nervous as I was, they didn’t show it.
My roommate and I left our door open all day, hoping people would come by to make friends — and some did! People came and introduced themselves, stayed to chat and speculate about the coming days. What would first week be like? (It would suck.) Is dining hall food really that bad? (Yes.) Do you think it’ll at least be quiet at night? (People still don’t believe me when I tell them how many times I was woken in the middle of the night by someone playing the bongos.) We found solidarity in our anxieties, our uncertainties. I thought we were all in this together.
That lasted for that afternoon, anyway. Soon all my floor-mates trickled out and my roommate and I went in separate directions, staring at our computer screens for a couple hours, uncomfortably trying to ignore each other. I guess we were just practicing for the rest of the year.
I actually still live with her today — though in a better place — and we get along just as well. Probably because we got so good at ignoring each other.
Out of all those people I met on the first day, only a handful ever hung out with me later. My floor was surprisingly non-social for a group of first-years. It’s like they had come here to study or something.
The group of us that was keen for some fun went to a frat party that night. I should mention that this seemed incredibly risqué and daring to me at the time. A real frat party? That you could just go to, without knowing the people whose house it was? Where you could get alcohol without having to bribe your older brother to boot for you? My underage suburban sensibilities were not ready for this.
So, we followed the line of keeners trickling down Thunderbird boulevard and joined the crowd in front of the houses. It became clear to me right away that this was not going to be as fun as the parties in the movies, or even as stupid. It was just crowded. And loud. And inside the house was really hot and grungy – grungier even than the bathroom at Totem. Not one person was doing a keg-stand. I think we stayed at that party for a total of about 30 minutes. What was the point of making bad decisions if you didn’t get to see some dumb shit to laugh about later?
Anyway, we trudged on back to the dorm and fell asleep on those awful nylon mattresses. Since then, that’s always the kind of night I prefer to a party, no matter how quintessential to the university experience they are.
At least, until the bongos started up again.