When people ask me what years I remember, nineteen sticks out for many reasons.
It was the year I started university at Carleton.
I wanted to be a journalist. They had a journalism program. And they offered me a great scholarship.
So I became a Raven and threw myself into campus life.
I bonded with my frosh group. I lined up for the campus bar on Wednesday nights. I learnt to like beer because that was what was most freely available. I skipped class when a fourth was needed for Euchre at the coffee shop.
I memorized news trivia for our endless pop quizzes in journalism class.
I studied like crazy for those quizzes because – like so many Carleton Journalism students – I remember that first day of class when I was told: “Look to your left. Look to right. Only one out of the three of you will be here next year.”
They admit 300 into first year Journalism. And 100 into second year.
I graduated with a journalism degree. And I can STILL spell Netanyahu (because misspelling names was an automatic “F”).
I wrote bad essays in first year Political Science because no one had ever taught me to write an essay.
I took first year computer science to boost my average and had a male friend extensively help me with the assignment to set up a website. Given I’ve toyed with web stuff ever since, and, well, am blogging away here today, I’d like to thank both that course and Pat for lighting the way.
I ran screaming through the university’s underground tunnels after bar nights with my girlfriends as we all squealed like pigs and called them “squig peals” and thought we were hilarious.
I broke up with my high school boyfriend (even though that was going to be forever) and dated.
I dated someone who loved Tupac.
And so remember when Tupac was shot in September 1996.
I clipped the story from our NEWSPAPER so he could hang it on the wall of his dorm.
That relationship lasted about a month. He married another girl from our frosh group.
Later that year, while contemplating who he was dating (neither me nor her) while driving in an ice storm, I collided with a cop. While my parents TO THIS DAY do not believe me, I’m still convinced it was her fault. Either way, given my numerous replays of the event, I clearly remember everything, including my “grrr” thoughts towards said boy. Distracting enough to collide with police? I don’t think so. But a good lesson either way on not dwelling on stuff you can’t change.
I briefly experimented with Greek Life and joined the only sorority on campus with a drag queen as a member. Her shows were awesome. Sorority life was less my thing. And the founding class of my specific sisterhood imploded the summer after first year shortly after volunteering at the lost kids booth at the Tulip Festival where (and I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried) we picked up the guys from the lollipop stand and their friend the security guard. About a month of completely unnecessary drama ensued.
But my main memory from my first year at university?
I joined the Varsity Swim Team.
I’d swum competitively until I was 15, but quit then when I realized I’d have to train about 10 times a week to just make Nationals. I was never going to be exceptional, so figured there were better things to do with my time.
But five times a week to, well, compensate for first-year university lifestyle? Worked for me.
I swam faster than I had at 15. I was even fastest backstroker in the region that year (because all the better ones went to UofT or MAC). I was female swimmer of the year and team captain the following year.
I met teammates I am still close to. Training and travel together will do that. I still remember 24+ hours in a car with my coach and two teammates to training camp in Florida. And I’ll never forget the dive motel we stayed in. The Lamplighter (Last) Resort Motel. The other university team took one look at it and left. We moved in for the week, removed the clothing left by the previous occupants, dealt with the blocked sink in our kitchen by removing the crack pipe from the pipes below, and started training.
We also bonded over the horrible press coverage we got from our university paper who assigned a student journalist to our team who, as far as any of us could figure, had a crush on our star athlete. Suffice to say by the end of the year I couldn’t take it and, well, expressed myself:
I heard that my letter made her cry. I mostly hope, going forward, I made her fact check and not be, well, unnecessarily harsh in order to get a better story. We had an encounter at the student bar a few weeks after my letter was published. It went better than expected.
Which brings me back to the bar – Oliver’s – where I think I’d like to (almost) end tonight with a little ditty that sums up and makes me think of first year. I certainly remember dancing to it. Here’s Gwen, back when she was just a girl:
And by almost done, I mean that all of the above adds up to my happily still being involved with my university. I started as Chapter President of the Swim Team Alumni in 2007 and still proudly hold that post and avidly follow how the team is doing. I am also now more broadly involved as Vice-President of the overall Alumni Association. Here I am a few years ago posing with Pedro the Panda, who is a very big deal in Varsity Football-land here in Ottawa.
Tonight’s prompt brought such a rush of memory that I couldn’t NOT post. Do check out the others linking up.