|This is the University of Virginia.|
We have a polo team.
What of it, bitches?
Twenty years ago today, I packed all my worldly possessions into a minivan and, along with my parents, traveled 162 miles to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to begin my first year of college. I was tremendously excited about the prospect of being
We made it to Charlottesville late that morning and I got checked into Tuttle Dorm, a rectangular monstrosity of architecture that I recently learned has been scheduled for demolition. I met a few of my dorm-mates, all of whom seemed to really have their shit together, and I met my resident assistant, a serious, studious engineering student. He seemed incredibly adult and mature, although looking back, I attribute this to the fact that he had a mustache. At around 3:00 p.m., I bid my parents farewell and just like that, I was on my own for the very first time.
But let's not forget about my ear, because it will become important later.
Later, we also went to a giant cookout, where we saw a little known folksy-jazzy-rock outfit called the Dave Matthews Band. In my infinite wisdom, I clearly remember thinking that "these guys won't be around very long." (Note: Now that I think about it, the DMB show might have been the next day, but it makes for a better narrative this way, don't you think?). Either way, I have zero ability as a purveyor of musical talent.
As the evening wore on, I began to realize two things. First, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of everything. I had graduated from high school with 47 other people. There were approximately 2,300 people in my first-year class. Virtually all of us had been academic superstars and/or varsity athletes (usually both). I was but a very small fish in a very big pond. I was also growing increasingly certain that all my classmates had already bonded with one another for life, and that everyone but me was hooking up.
And second, I really wasn't feeling very good. I hadn't had a drop of alcohol (which, of course, was illegal for someone my age -- wink, wink), but I was feeling woozy, disoriented and a little dizzy, and my ear was starting to really starting to ache.
At around 10:00, my roommate and I decided to pay a visit to another high-school classmate of ours, who was living in another set of dorms. As we visited with her, we learned that one of her hallmates had been an actress or a model before graduating high school. I remember thinking something along the lines of "sweet sassy molassy! There are models running all over this place!"
At some point, we met the model, a pretty, unassuming girl named Leslie, who earned the distinction of being the very first girl I officially met in college. (OK, she might have been the 2nd or 3rd, but again, it's all about narrative, people!)
I'd like to say that I fought the good fight, and that I dazzled her with my charms.
Because 14 years later, she went on to appear in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
However, like Shawshank, my freshman year in college was no fairy-tale world. I did not dazzle her that night (in fact, I never saw her again). I didn't really dazzle anyone those first few months in college, including girls, professors, my parents, people in general....
But I digress.
By about 11:00, I knew I needed to get back to my dorm to get some rest. I stumbled back to my room, sick, tired, alone, and feeling stupid. I got in bed, but I had a hard time sleeping. So far, college had pretty much sucked.
And then, around 2:00 in the morning, this happened to my right eardrum.
Sheepishly, I knocked on the R.A.'s door and explained that I needed to get some medical attention. Keep in mind that the dude had been an R.A. for all of about 12 hours.
This was his reaction:
"ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME?"
A very sad-faced Me replied, "No. No, I'm not."
So we borrowed someone's car, and my R.A. had to drive me to the University of Virginia Hospital, the place where they didn't believe I hadn't been drinking.
It took me a while, but I finally found my footing in college. I joined the staff of The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.'s daily student newspaper, made a bunch of lifelong friends and figured out that I really did like this writing thing. And by my second year, I really started to figure out how college worked.
So it all ended well. And whenever I feel clueless or lost, I think about the night of August 24, 1991, and take solace in the fact that I've come a long way since then and that I'm not THAT guy. Anymore.