Thursday, July 22, 2010

I realized again yesterday, watching the freshman orientation crowds on campus, that this year’s freshmen were, in fact, born in 1992, the year I graduated from high school and started college myself. I spent my first semester in North Carolina on a misguided notion that I wanted to be a marine biologist (and truthfully, what didn’t I want to be back then?) I couldn’t get away fast enough though, all that summer planning my escape. And Wilmington was gorgeous, a hothouse with moss and flowers hanging from the trees, the beach, giant pinecones, and a beautiful new-made-to-look-old campus. I was eager for my parents to drop me off and at the same time terrified to fend for myself (although even that existence seemed a little sheltered since all my meals and a little bit of spending money were taken care of.) Even though I eventually settled on studying English and moved back to live with my parents and go to Rockford College (which was a better school I’m convinced than UNCW—smaller classes, more intellectually oriented, better professors) I’m still convinced going away, even for that semester was absolutely necessary. I also feel I got a taste of what that sort of college life entailed, frat parties, drunken roomates, dorm-life, the sort of freedom that comes from being away from home for the first time really. I eventually left since it was expensive to be an out-of-state student, and a pain to get back and forth from easily for breaks and holidays, and since I could study English anywhere, there wasn’t much point in staying. I was so young, so unformed. Still blonde, so idealistic with my purple denim backpack and Clinton/Gore button, so self-conscious about every single thing with my overly bright primary colored bedspread and my bad taste in music, my kitten posters and dolphin figurines. Mostly, my awkwardness and willingness to please. A year later I was an all- black wearing Kant reading, misanthrope who hated everything. So much can change in a year.

Maybe the only thing that remained constant was the writing. I remember being happy when my roommate would disappear on the weekends and I could hide in my room with the little electric typewriter I’d bought with my graduation money. I was writing stories, though I had written poems in h.s. and a couple of years later, would go back to poetry wholly, but then I was convinced I was going to write a novel. I would spend my afternoons between classes in the library, studying their lit magazine collection (which was actually not all that big in 1992, though that’s probably changed since they have an MFA program there now.) I had a notebook I would meticulously copy all the details into. I remember liking my classes though, a history of film one where we got to watch silent, movies, freshman comp which actually had some interesting readings--Clarise Lispector and James Joyce, as well as an Oceanography seminar that I was very interested in. Less exciting were a remedial math class and an early morning American Gov't class I basically slept through with my eyes open. I ate alot of Doritos, Peanut M&M's, and canned Ravioli in those days, despite a dining card I rarely used for cafeteria that had actually really good food but was a bit too far from my dorm. I also drank alot of beer and developed an affinity for Rum & Coke, a love for Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails, and a penchant for playing gin rummy with my suitemates late into the night. There was a drunken Halloween where we all stupidly piled into the back of pickup to go to a dance club. A night we drove out to the beach and spent the night waiting for the sun to come up along with the fishermen. Played video games and hung out at the Johnny Mercer Pier (actually the old pier, the creaky wooden one, succumbed to hurricanes in the mid-90's, but there's a new shiny concrete one.) This all night restaurant called The Kettle where we spent hours over coffee, iced tea, and really good omelettes.

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