Senior Year – 2003-2004.
Ah, the homestretch.
By now I’d had enough of living on Cornerstone’s campus, and this final roommate hunting experience turned out to be the more wonderful turn of events of my entire social life. Gloria, roommate from my Junior year, had two friends from the Honors Program who wanted to get an apartment a few miles from campus. I agreed to join in. Reluctantly. Confession: When I heard these two girls were from this Honors group, I admit I sucked in my breath a little bit. To my knowledge I didn’t know either of them, but I knew of this group. As freshmen, the Honors kids had been “those Honors kids” who we, as lofty sophomores, had been annoyed with because they were too loud, way too excited ,etc. But, Gloria had turned out to be likable and I’d had enough classes with a few from this group to know they were at least smart and interesting. Plus, Prof Burghart at one point randomly stopped me in that stairwell that always smelled like sweaty metal to discuss my writing, and he’d suggested that I get to know some of the Honors kids because he thought I might like them. Fortunately, that simple advice stuck. I sucked it up, crossed my fingers, and agreed to join Gloria and her friends, Rachel and Miranda, to live in the apartment.
For some reason, I was the first person to move into the apartment, which meant I went to the apartment complex’s office to sign the lease. The office lady knew of me and, justifiably believing I was aware of who I was living with, said, “Oh, you’re one of Brooke’s friends moving into the apartment above her! That should be fun.” I fake smiled with a chipper “Yes!” although I had no clue who Brooke was any more than I knew who Rachel or Miranda were. Anyway, I got the keys, and then my dad and brother suffered the joys of hauling my couch up three flights of stairs (this couch, years later, would be cathartically torn apart with hammers and steak knives by my enthusiastic father).
Rachel was the first roommate to move in with me. I greeted her, her face registered as someone I’d had classes with a few times (and, yes, she was one of those Honors kids), and we kinda ignored each other as we went about settling in. Which was reasonable. What was not reasonable was that for THE REST OF THE DAY we did not talk to each other but instead read books in different rooms until it was too dark and then we went to bed. To this day, neither of us knows why we didn’t talk.
Then came Miranda. Ah-ha, she looked vaguely familiar too! …Or at least the back of her head did from when she’d sat in the front of Religious Authors class the previous year. Again, however, little effort was put into getting to know each other for a while. (Which was incredibly stupid, considering we discovered A YEAR LATER that we’d both grown up in the same small town of Cedar Springs and had tons in common.)
Thus began two of my best friendships ever.
Despite the pathetic start, Gloria, Rachel, Miranda, and myself ended up getting along splendidly, which Gloria must have foreseen when she’d suggested the idea. Seriously, it is a major accomplishment to say that four girls living in an apartment and sharing one bathroom never fought.
- Rachel liked to think she was an excellent matchmaker, which resulted in a white-board drawing of a game of M.A.S.H. with stick figures labeled with our initials and terrifying numbers of stick children.
- Gloria and I for no clear reason once posed for pictures all night. One shows me afraid of a stuffed dragon which Gloria is about to save me from with nunchucks.
- In a very tongue-in-cheek move, we nicknamed our apartment the Protestant Nunnery.
While I still wasn’t completely a part of their group, my three kind roommates grafted me into their circle of friends as much as both sides were willing, and I then came to know a few people I’d had multiple classes with over the years. All around, my Senior Year I bothered to get to know people, probably because I realized I was about to leave college with only a handful of friends to remain in contact with for the rest of my life. Fortunately I still had Becca, Adam, Aaron, and Pete from the year previous, so there were always people “my age” to hang out with between classes, after classes, and on many a “Fabulous Fluger Friday.” We swam in Pete’s parents’ pool. Becca’s family took us to dinner at Mongolian BBQ for her birthday. We for some reason watched Britney Spears music videos at Aaron’s. We played tons of euchre. Becca and I went to “Rent” which had Constantine, that guy who would later be on American Idol – he looked right at us too (insert fake swoon)! It was pretty good times.
Academically, I was also speaking up a bit more in class since I’d determined that I needed interaction – and, ahem, affirmation. But for some stupid reason I took 19 credits that first semester, which was a bit much considering I was trying to finish my first novel at the same time. (Hindsight: I wish I’d focused more on the book than ending college with a bang.)
French class in particular was enjoyable both semesters, and in a weird string of connections I ended up becoming friends with Christine, who turned out to be the wife of “Oh, that guy” who I’d had multiple classes with each semester. Christine and I struggled through the language together with
mediocre little-to-no success, but it was great to stay after class and talk with the Prof for long periods of time about books, music, feminism, her time in France, etc. She even gave us books to divvy up between us at the end of the year. Christine and I never did learn to master the most difficult sentence we could come up with “I need a drink in the woods,” but it was fun. And I’m pretty sure we both passed with As, so our sucking up must have worked.
Media Literacy was of my final Communications classes for my minor. I was a little disappointed to discover that they’d pulled a switcheroo at the last minute and changed the prof to some new guy, but by the end of the first class period Prof Anderson had won me over – anyone who gets that excited about Disney is my kind of person. And while I’m sure he was only impressed with my writing because I was being read in comparison to my Communication major classmates (don’t get me started), I did appreciate his comments on my papers of “This is OUTSTANDING work – I want to help you get this published!” and “Call me, email me, we MUST do coffee!”
American Lit: Colonial with Prof Stevens once again resulted in numerous quotable quotes from the man. This class also solidified my hatred of Moby Dick. I mostly remember my new-found friends playing online quizzes and giggling all class period. And I’m still not sure how to take it that, when in one of my papers I mentioned being related to Emily Dickinson, Stevens wrote, “Why does this not surprise me?”
I’m not sure there is any way to explain Senior Seminar for English. I will say that I enjoyed my final paper on Flannery O’Connor, even if I basically gave my defense presentation from the position that I didn’t really like her writing. (I’m glad Prof Landrum agreed with me, even if Prof Stevens was aghast, which I think is unfair considering the whole time during my defense his kid ate French fries on his lap and stuck his tongue out at me.) Anyway, my main memories are of sitting around that table and listening to some of the dumbest conversations I’ve fortunately mostly forgotten. I kept no notes from that class. The one REALLY good thing I got out of it was that it finally forever solidified my friendship with “Oh, that guy,” the one I’d had Weight Training, Religious Authors, and many other classes with. Because he was in the group with my new circle of friends, I was fine by this point using his name “Buddy” in my head instead of “Oh, that guy.” But still we never spoke. We developed an odd understanding, though, and I don’t know what I would have done without him sitting across the table from me to receive my eye rolls and exchange looks of “What the hell is going on? How have we been praying for cats for 20 minutes?” etc. Telepathy would have been very handy, but you make do.
Then there was Editing and Proofreading, where I was the only person NOT on the school paper and I’m sure the Prof resented me for it. I may have rubbed it in an little bit, actually. I even wrote a paper on why I hadn’t done the job-shadowing assignment. After talking with my aunt Sharon’s friend Julie, who was an editor, I realized that living a life with a red pen was not for me. I got an A on that paper too, which is still funny to me.
Adolescent Lit was with another of Aunt Sharon’s friends from college – Prof Bell. Talk about going into a class with pressure. Since Becca, myself, and another guy named Denver (who was a part of my new friend circle) all had to study Moby Dick that same semester, we bonded in this equally-exasperating class. I remember Becca and I did some presentation where we showed a clip from “The Simpsons,” but I don’t remember why. I also remember we made Prof Bell cry because we defended that Harry Potter was not satanic.
Over the Christmas break we had J(anuary) Term, and Becca and I took Science Fiction class with Prof Landrum. This meant I was in heaven for about 2 weeks. Now that my 19-credit semester was behind me and I had a breezy 12-credit semester ahead of me, I set aside large chunks of time to finish The Kota, my first novel that I’d been fiddling with to that point. Being in Sci-Fi class helped sharpen my focus. We read Dune, Landrum sang the “Star Trek” theme, and we reminisced about the date and time that “Alf” had aired – I’m still impressed with that classmate who remembered where it fit in the NBC lineup in the 1990s. The fact that there were about 6 of us in the class was great, and for the first time I actually bothered to pipe up in discussions (the fact that sci-fi was my favorite genre didn’t hurt.)
Finally, there was Postmodernism. By this point I was happy calling “those honor kids” my friends, and most of them were in this class. Plus Blond Abraham Lincoln, whom none of us liked, and we had a rotating schedule of who had to sit next to him. The class was somehow fun, which I attribute to Prof Bonzo entirely. He at least had the good sense to let us read an impossibly complicated book in groups and then come up with questions for the next class period. My favorite was probably Buddy’s, “How does Derrida get any work done with Caputo’s lips fastened to his ass?”
Anyway, as my time as a college student came to an end, I finally published The Kota, which came as a surprise to my profs because I had NEVER bothered to even mention it. Becca had been suckered into writing on the school paper, and she wrote a very kind article about how I was publishing my first novel. Prof Stevens’ said, “Miss Somerville has always been an enigma, and I’m intrigued that she quietly wrote this full-length novel.” I’m pretty sure that this single-handedly earned me the 2004 English Award for Excellence. (Side note: At the chapel before graduation, Landrum, as the head of Humanities at the time, presented me with this award and presented the Communications Award for Excellence to Lydia, another classmate I’m gladly come to know by name. As we both stood on stage and received our $50 gift cards to Barnes & Noble, Lydia side-smile-whispered to me, “Did you know about this?” so that I side-smile-whispered, “Nope.” Apparently Landrum hadn’t bothered to tell us beforehand, but all the other division recipients had known.)
Then came graduation. I remember thinking now different this was from my high school graduation. I couldn’t wait to get away from ACS; I was sad to leave Cornerstone. I was happy with what I’d accomplished, and I was thrilled that God had brought me so far from the mess I’d been. Most of the ceremony is kind of a blur in my memory, but I did end up sitting next to Amber Smith, as we’d predicted would happen back as freshmen. And it’s only thanks to Gloria that I have any pictures from my graduation at all, because my parents forgot to charge the batteries in the camera.
I remember going back to my apartment after the open house that my family threw for me. I was the only one home, which was probably good. I remember just feeling…blank. I had no homework due tomorrow. I didn’t have to be anywhere until my internship started in a week. I’ve never been so hit with the feeling of being done. The unknown stretched before me for the first time in my life. It was kind of a relief, definitely terrifying.
Then my internship started in the media department at Cornerstone. This basically meant weeks of making phone calls and writing random articles for the website that didn’t seem to matter to me. There were some really wonderful “older people” who were willing to take the time to guide me in decisions for my future. By the end of the internship, though, I basically once again realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with a red pen. I didn’t want to work in an office, even if it had something vaguely to do with writing, editing, publishing, etc. I had become, somewhere along the way, too creative to find that fulfilling. I’d gotten a degree for my hobby.
So, after my internship was over and I officially had my diploma, I took a year off to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It helped that all my roommates were still in college for another year, so I didn’t have a complete cutoff from all the wonderful things of college that I’d discovered. This included my friends, and I now had the free time to get to know them better. We got much closer, and I remember sitting in a room with Rachel, Miranda, Gloria, Brooke, Buddy, Christine, Denver, Chris, Andrew, Randy (Burghart), and a few other people and thinking for the first time in my life, “I like everyone in this room.” That still touches me as an incredibly good moment, and it was then that I realized God had finally brought me to a place and to a people that fit.