Nessie, Scat, & The Freshmen Frenzy

journal

It’s safe to say that I knew I was a mess when I entered college.  I hadn’t sorted it all out yet, but I at least knew that making other people happy could not be my focus anymore. So, I basically entered Cornerstone University with the single goal to go unnoticed. I didn’t want to shine, I didn’t want to work so hard to excel, I didn’t want the professors to expect me to get A’s.  (I know… #goldenchildproblems)  And I certainly didn’t want my peers to look up to me or rely on me.  I needed ‘me time.  (It’s interesting now to look back on my journal entries during this time and trace my growth/healing, so I’ll include some as I go along below.)

Also, I knew that I wanted to see more than what I’d been exposed to in high school. I needed a wider range of humanity. I’d always been eclectic in my interests without the resources to explore them, and now in college I was thrilled to have academic guidance in my pursuits.  (Not that Cornerstone was a widely diverse world, but it was better than where I’d come from.)  I remember feeling so relieved that I could now learn in a richer soil.  And, since I had nowhere near enough personal stability to know what I wanted to do vocationally, I decided to get a degree for my hobby.  Thus, I  decided on an English Literature major, and I set forth to gobble up all I could.  And maybe try to enjoy myself.

Freshmen Year – 2000-2001.  I remember meeting my roommate, Elise, for the first time. We both realized instantly, I think, that they’d put us together because we both had listed Art as one of our interests.  This was clear mostly because on paper we had so little else in common.  But we bonded at the very least because we were both equally baffled by our suite-mates – one turned out to be a pathological liar/thief, the other had no boundaries and cleaned out our frig on a regular basis, among other things.  But Elise was a godsend, really.  She was emotionally stable (certainly by comparison to yours truly), she was kind, she was sweet, and quite frankly she was such a contrast to myself that she made me a better person.  It was also interesting that my high school English teacher, Michaele, knew Elise from when they worked at camp together, and Michaele had sort of followed me to Cornerstone to work there.  This helped Elise and I because we had a very welcome third-wheel at lunch. Although, I still don’t understand Michaele’s preferred meal of peas and cottage cheese mixed into her salads.

Adventures of Elise and myself:

  • Coming up with a story that Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster) lived in Cornerstone’s shallow pond and ate regularly sacrificed students.
  • Covering our walls in plastic so we could paint them.
  • Going to bed by 9 after we’d finished homework.
  • Naming our pet fish “Discernment,” which was one of the buzz words at school.  We later had to give Discernment medicine (and later burial) after our suitemate decided to pet the fish and gave it a fungus.

Living in a dorm with several hundred classmates was definitely a whole new world – I’d just left a senior class of 11, after all.  The first thing that hit me about these people as we settled in was how annoyingly Christian-y they were.  Apparently the fact that we’d entered a  Christian university meant that everyone was trying to prove their faith or fit in or something, but I found it obnoxious considering I’d come from a Christian high school where you kinda just learned to incorporate religion/faith into the everyday.  Or, maybe it was just that this was the first time many of them had been able to live in a Christian community like this.  Either way, it settled down after a couple of weeks, much to my relief. What did not settle down was the “Freshmen Frenzy” – the instant drive everyone seemed to have to find “the one.”   I, knowing that I was a mess and needed to be alone and sort myself out, was constantly surrounded by silly girls who fluttered over boys.  And the boys fluttered back.  I grew incredibly sick of hearing the campus mantra of “if it’s God’s will” – which I like to believe God hates as much as I do.  I find it hard to believe that God is a Holy Matchmaker with nothing better to do.  Anyway, I kept my head down and once again realized I was a magnet for freaks, but more on that later.

Rock groups were Cornerstone’s way of trying to help us make friends.  I don’t remember what sorting system they used (it was not a magic hat), but basically groups of 8-10 (?) were clumped together and taken through the tours, etc. so that we were supposed to bond.  Figuring I had to have some friends, I went along with my suite-mate (not yet knowing about the pathological behavior) and joined Rob, Tim, Amber, and some others.  We were an odd mix of characters, but I truly did like them.  I remember very quickly Amber and I realized that we would be sitting next to each other come graduation because of our last names, and this did end up happening, even if we weren’t close friends by the time of graduation.  And something our Rock group did that I’m not sure others did was that we took turns going to each other’s homes on the weekends.  On Rob’s weekend, I remember lying around, laughing with these people, and thinking, “Huh, maybe I like people after all.”  It wasn’t much, but it was a step in the healing process and meant a lot to me.

10-23-2000 –I recently went to one of my friend’s houses for a short weekend getaway.  “We” being two guys and three girls, it probably looked a little interesting.  We went to visit his great grandmother for an hour, and we were all amazed that she acted like us.  The first comment out of this elderly woman’s mouth was, “Wow, you sure have quite the harem, Rob.” We stood dumbfounded as she went on to discuss underwear, my friend’s girlfriend, and various other subjects which are usually not discussed with great grandparents…or parents, for that matter.  Sure there was also a conversation about digestion problems, but it was incredible how she connected with us.

There were ups and downs as I progressed with this new life.

10-29-2000 I think I’ve begun to come back around to myself.  I don’t yet fully grasp were I went.  I got lost.  I was numb, but I feel like I’m awake now.  I have this tingling sensation like (I can’t believe I’m about to use this analogy) a hunting dog who’s about to be released into a field.  That’s really the best way to describe my interior right now; I’m shivering with anticipation.
It’s weird to look back on myself over the past few months.  I can remember coming home to the Haymarsh the first time and only wanting to get back to “civilization” as soon as possible.  Maybe that’s the whole “you can’t go home again” thing.  I don’t know.  Now, as I lay on my bed in the dark like I always used to do, I realize what a little shit I was.
Now, I’m trying to listen to that little voice that, when I said, “I hate my life,” told me, “well, change it then.”

1-13-2001 I’ve heard it said that we all should get rid of perfectionism because you miss out in a lot of life.  Messes are supposedly signs of life.  I think it is because of this theory that I am sitting in the perfect spot on my bed.  (You know how you are supposed to not always lay in the same spot in your bed so one area doesn’t get worn out?  Well, I’m being defiant and laying there.  Pretty gutsy, huh?)
One thing I don’t understand about myself is why I don’t let myself have fun.  I avoid social gatherings of any kind.  I don’t go to friends’ parties, even when they actually do think to invite me.  I don’t even allow myself to enjoy any one person’s company because I constantly tell myself that they will turn on me at the nearest opportunity.
I think part of the whole self-pity phase (God, let it be a phase) involves analyzing yourself to death.  Analyzing is one of my strong suits.  I can easily identify why my life sucks.  I’m analytical, so I read into everything.  I’m a perfectionist (which I already covered) and organized.  I’m self-conscious, so I never draw attention to myself on purpose.  I have no self-esteem, but I also manage to be incredibly arrogant and vain at the same time.  I have an “inferiority complex about my superiority complex.”  I’m defensive to the teeth.  I’m terrified to enjoy myself because I think I will get hurt by someone sometime.  All in all, I’ve decided that I’m a snotty, defensive screw-up.  I have this mix of apathetic aggression and downright mourning that I can’t explain.

So, yeah.  All that was going on.

Of course, my main focus was on learning in college – weird, I know.  The freshmen class that sticks most in my memory is “Foundations of Scientific Inquiry,” which I’m sure seemed like a great idea to some administrative head at the time but which came to be known as “Foundations of Scientific Purgatory.”  Basically the semester was divided into 3 sections with 3 different professors of 3 different science classes.  I’m not really sure I learned anything, but I definitely remember the assignment when we were put in groups and had to compete by finding the fastest way to melt an ice cube.  As soon as the prof started the timer, Jeff D. acted  decisively for our group by popping the ice in his mouth, crunching away, and then opening his mouth and proclaiming, “Done!”  We won, even if this wasn’t exactly with the prof had intended.  (Years later, my brother, knowing this story, did the same for his group when he was in this class.)

But there were good classes too.  “Intro to Literature” was probably my favorite, and Ms. Eckman was probably my favorite prof that year.  I did, however, nearly get sucked back into being a golden child because my class was full of Business majors  (the horror!) and I was one of the few actually interested in literature.  Or there was “World Civilizations 1” where Prof Cole delighted in singing some song with my name in it practically every morning – loving history as I did, I forgave him.  There was also “Intro to Biology,” where Prof “Gator” would regularly talk about scat. I again was something of a golden child in this class, especially in the section about wetlands – living on the Haymarsh back home had its advantages.  When asked on a field trip, “What do you call dead meat?” I happily answered, “Carrion!” and got a gold star for the day.

5-17-2001    Just when I think life can’t possibly become any funnier, God finds a way to slip something slimy under the covers.  We went on a field trip for Bio Lab to the sand dunes, and I was walking with a guy whom I’ve spoken with many times.  He remembered that I am an outdoor freak, and he asked me if I had learned anything in the class.  I said not really, because we were studying wetlands and I live on a wetland.  He asked where.  I said Morley.  He was surprised and said he was from Lakeview.  I said really.  He asked if I knew where the Haymarsh Hunt Club was.  I said that was me.  He asked if I knew Lee Clemence.  I said he was my uncle.  He said really.  I asked how he knew my uncle.  He said he used to work for Gummer Peat Company.  Very strange; you never know who you’re going to run into.

And there was “Religious Communities and Cultures” with Prof Burghart.  This class probably meant the most to me, although I might not have been aware of its effects at the time.  Randy (Burghart) clearly wasn’t any more thrilled with the assigned, massive text than we were. And since there were only about 10 of us in the class, he moved us from the stifling classroom above the library into the student union, where we could sit on couches.  Basically, all I remember is Randy showing us slide after slide of different art pieces on his laptop.  I did take notes, so we must have been tested on something.  But mostly I remember feeling incredibly relieved to just sit back on the couch, let go of some of my neuroses, and listen to Randy tell us about art for an hour.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, Randy would be a influence on my later choice of a friend circle as well.  Not that Steve, who was in this class with me and wrote “Poophead” and “Steve G. is my hero” on my notes, stuck around for long.

All in all, my freshmen year of college was an interesting start.  I started dipping my toes in various interests, learning about new options.  I healed just enough to enjoy the change.  And while my friendships from Freshmen year didn’t end up really sticking much, they prepared me for the ones to come.

About Sunshine Somerville

I'm the author of "The Kota Series" and "A Fairly Fairy Tale. Originally from the beach side of Michigan, I work as a medical transcriptionist from home. When not staring into a computer screen, I enjoy reading, painting, and being outdoors.
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