Junior Year – 2002-2003.
My roommate situation Junior Year at Cornerstone proved to be a phenomenal turning point. Mita (from the year before, you remember, who made excellent dumplings) and I needed a place to live now that Elise had decided to brave the life of a commuter. So in one of those friend-of-a-friend moves, we signed up to live with Bobbi and her friend Gloria. Bobbi had lived across the hall from me Freshmen Year. I was told Gloria was on the track team. That was all I knew. Well, that and Bobbi’s assurance that “Gloria is cool.”
My first day back on campus, I took a small load up to our apartment in Babcock and dodged the others moving in. Walking into our apartment, I found this 5-foot-plus-few-inches girl with long hair, Gloria, sitting at her computer. She turned and asked if I needed help. My immediate response to this question is always “no,” but I figured if she was willing it might be a good way to get to know each other. So, Gloria walked with me back to my car to get the next load. Then something happened that bonded us instantly. A guy I knew from the years before had parked near me and started unloading, and he commenced chatting away at me so that I went into my obvious (at least I think obvious) humoring voice that also is meant to imply I’m not interested. With one sympathetic glance from Gloria, I knew we were going to be friends.
Gloria, Bobbi, Mita, and I got along extremely well. We were all a little bit country, a little bit rock-n’-roll, funny, and not above being a little nuts from time to time to let off steam. Bobbi came up with the idea of painting plastic bright red and hanging it all around the living/dining room, and I’m told people in the parking lot looked through our windows and thought we were Goth and angry all the time. Mita and I would often pretend to be napping rather than answer the door when a certain visitor came a-callin’. Gloria once came up behind me in the student union and asked if I would help her get lunch; I turned around in confusion and found her to have both her arms in slings from a pole vaulting attempt gone horribly wrong (this may have been the next year, actually, but I can’t remember – the girl got injured almost as often as me, which was another bonding point).
So, yeah, good roommates = check. Elsewhere, I was also finally realizing that I kinda liked people. But by now, the normal people had all established their friend circles, and I realized I didn’t really have one, largely because I seemed to have a talent for befriending people who transferred out. Then, on one of the first days of 20th Century British Lit, I sat by one of Elise’s friends that I knew but for whatever reason we’d never been close friends before. Thus entered Becca. She invited me to lunch, and I soon found myself with Becca, Pete, Adam, and Aaron. They adopted me, lost puppy that I was. These were also really the only people in my own year that I was friends with, because along with my ability to befriend transfers I also through Gloria knew her sophomore friends (more on that later).
Odd things I remember:
- Becca – Mostly I just remember sitting around in the student union between classes, goofing around or helping each other with English homework. Ours was just an easy friendship, which was a relief. But we did have really good talks too, and I remember one in particular where we discussed how we needed deeper connections on spiritual grounds with people in our lives. Immediately after this, Pete came up and asked if we’d seen some TV show the night before, and Becca and I both rolled our eyes but broke out laughing.
- Pete – dragged us to at least one Shane & Shane concert, and I witnessed my first platonic man-on-man crush. Pete was a goofball but could also switch gears in an instant to help people, which I always admired.
- Aaron – We once were left in the student union for like 3 hours between classes, he doing homework on something about fish and me working on a paper for Stevens. I’m not sure we actually spoke until Aaron wanted me to go help him pick out Thank You Cards in the bookstore. To my surprise, he picked very flowery ones. (I really don’t know why I remember this.)
- Adam – Okay. I took this group up to the Haymarsh for an outdoorsy field trip during the spring, as Adam and Aaron were both very into environmental biology. Driving my dad’s truck out in the back 900 acres somewhere, I should have known better than to drive through a soggy area – HayMARSH, after all. I got the truck stuck. More in annoyance than embarrassment (shame on me), I left my friends in the truck and went to chase down my dad, who was on the tractor not far away. As this was my first ever “Are ya busy?” (code in our family for being stuck and needing help) I was kinda amused with myself, and Dad laughed and drove the tractor to pull out his own truck where I had lodged it in knee-deep mud. I, assuming Adam knew what he was doing, left Adam behind the wheel while I helped Dad hook the truck to the tractor. Dad pulled and pulled on the tractor while I assumed Adam was in the truck trying to steer it out. Once the truck finally got free, turns out Adam had left it in park the entire time.
Back in the classrooms, I was still enjoying myself and gobbling up all I could. I had a lot of Prof. Landrum that year. He was probably my favorite professor because he flat out said that he didn’t care what grades we got, that the main point was that we get something out of it, and that that was up to us. He had a very lecture-style of teaching, and it reminded me of Mr. T back in high school. He was also the most eclectic of the profs I had, so that didn’t hurt. Anyway, I had Landrum for Shakespeare (we watched many movies), 16th Century Brit Lit, Literary Criticism (where people on either side of me played solitaire on their laptops the entire time), 20th Century Brit Lit, and he was one of the three profs for Love & Friendship (sort of like a real class except that the profs clearly got bored and wandered in and out of the room to get handfuls of cookies from the office across the hall). I also had Christian Theology with Duff, American Lit with Stevens (“Does it scare anyone that I have scissors in my pockets?”), Public Speaking (in which I got an A+ for a speech on my name, thanks parents), and a few others that I’ve mostly forgotten.
Academically, I started to realize that, whether I tried or not, I was still a pretty good student and was going to get noticed for it. Classmates wanted help with their papers; profs clearly remembered who I was outside the classroom and sometimes even told me on the sidewalk that they’d liked my last paper. So on the one hand – oops, guess I couldn’t avoid the Golden Child problem entirely. On the other hand – affirmation is a nice thing. It definitely encouraged me that I actually could write after all. It wasn’t just something I liked doing; maybe I was actually good at it. (Although I still think Stevens missed the point of my “extremely good” anti-Fussell poem that he HANDED OUT TO OTHER CLASSES, but that’s a whole other thing.)
Because of this boost, I started to seriously start working on my hobby project – The Kota Series. It’s not a coincidence that my journal entries significantly dropped off during this time, for all my free-time writing now shifted to The Kota. (Brief explanation: The Kota is a sci-fi story that my brother and our friends Kaly and Luke made up when we were little and played every day. Over the years, it had grown into a short-ish story of 4 “books” that I’d written based off of what we’d played. Now, I started to flesh them out with the goal of making them real books at some point. I was never aiming for “ooh, I want to be a big published author” or anything. I just wanted this story that had meant something to me for over a decade to actually be in print, in book form that I could have forever.) I don’t think that I told anyone other than my roommates what I was doing cooped up behind my laptop all the time, but I’d finally found my creative release and kinda dove into it during this time.
Then “8 Mile” came out. I connect crap all over the place anyway, but “Lose Yourself” really hit home with me as I was branching out in my own creative project, and the song felt like a kick in the butt so that I decided I was actually going to publish this thing. For that, I will forever be thankful to Eminem.
Anyway, the rest of Junior Year for some reason is a blur, probably because I actually enjoyed myself but I was still in a place where I only held onto the bad times (baby steps…). But really, by this point, I was pretty happy. I liked my friends (a new concept, but delightful). I liked school (and the renewed affirmation). And I had my own thing that I could work on in the background, smirking and scribbling down notes for my book whenever something inspired me.
Dude. I know we’ve talked about this already, but I was so in that Lit Crit class with you & I will never forgive Landrum for making us ready stupid Henry James’ “Wings of the Dove” INCLUDING THE RIDICULOUS CRITICISM THAT WAS HALF THE STUPID BOOK…and then watching the stupid movie! (Not that I’m still irritated about it or anything. I let things go, no problem.)
Also, Fussel — die. Although, what I remember from my writing class with Stevens is that he barked at the white board. Barked. Like a dog. In the middle of talking about a Li Young Lee poem.
That English department was weird.
All true. I didn’t even finish “Wings of the Dove” and to this day feel no guilt about it.