Here we are. Back in the proverbial saddle on this grumpy-ass horse we call College.
Camp Yale is an exciting time here. I’m particularly happy because somebody might actually read this column. Normally, my readership consists of my editor, my father and some guy in Texas who uses the online columnist contact form to send me inappropriate greetings. This week, at the very least, the Campers of 2011 — who probably still read the e-mails from the administration — surely want to gobble my pearls of misguided wisdom.
Now that I’ve got a captive audience willing to read a few hundred words that will not be covered on the final, let’s talk pre-term. My last year at Camp Yale makes me realize what a ballin’ camp it is.
With the exception of one week in rural Maine (redundant!) for a music program that was essentially a forced-labor camp with the occasional piano practice (note: I was seven years old, incontrovertible evidence of an Asian mother), my summers were spent at home, and I never envied my friends’ orthodontia-riddled first kisses and weekend Tater Tot brunches. If, however, sleepaway camp had been like these first few weeks on campus, I would have gladly shipped off. Here, every camper has 24/7 Internet access. We have hot showers, keycards and nightly parties with drugs much harder than calamine lotion. Our bunks are co-ed, and besides a few athletes and the walk-of-shamers, nobody’s up at 6 a.m.
It seems to me that this first week (or three) is the stuff that college magic is made of. You can’t get this kind of unburdened, unbridled and largely unsupervised environment anywhere else.
And now that I’m on my way out, that just may be the most depressing thing I can think of. At this point, I am already old hat at this pre-term business. I can Blue Book an entire semester in 15 minutes, I will turn down beer that lacks color and/or carbonation, and the allure of scoring with a hot upperclassman is gone since I have yet to scare off the one from last semester.
I’ve always resented those well-meaning people who say, “Enjoy college. It’s the best four years of your life.” All right, thanks. So, life is an uncontrollable downward spiral after 22? It really doesn’t get any better than extra-long twin beds, mono outbreaks and grade inflation? Once I have a diploma, why should I bother to keep on going?
Don’t be discouraged, sweet one-one-ers, you will still enjoy the pleasures of packed parties, anonymous frenching and running through the Old Campus sprinklers at 4 a.m. But when facing the end of this stage of life, it may be good to remember that even THIS camp isn’t all fun and field days.
You see, Camp Yale coincides with the evilest of start-of-term beasts, moving in.
Here are some things I’ve learned in the last four years: Fridges are ridockulously heavy; sticky tack is worthless; and there’s really nothing that makes living in a top-floor walkup worth it.
As a life-long Martha Stewart enthusiast, I enjoy some aspects of moving in more than most people. There really is a huge thrill in homemade cardboard underwear drawer dividers. I look forward to this project so much that I store the hot-glue gun in my “unpack first” box.
Overall, though, move-in sucks. Greeting old friends and meeting new ones would be much better when not coated in sweat and dust bunnies. The manual labor really blows. Even the lightest-weight 24X18X16 box proves prohibitive for my sad little arm span, so I always spend the week after move-in covered in box-corner-induced bruises and fending off concerned inquiries about domestic violence. And adjusting my bed’s height to accommodate underbed storage is a task that without fail a) draws blood; and b) requires me to take a running leap from my bedroom door to make it onto the bed for the rest of the year.
Last year, annexed to what one suitemate affectionately (and by that, I mean angrily) referred to as “Anne Frank’s Attic” on the fifth floor of Vanderbilt, hanging posters on the sloping walls became such a trigonometric challenge that I didn’t even bother and spent the rest of the year in a bare-walled bedroom that looked like a jail cell.
And speaking of jail cells, when else — short of imprisonment or military enlistment — would I ever be expected to share a bunk bed long-term with a complete stranger? Pray never. Here comes move-in’s creepy little sidekick: Getting to know the people you’re living with.
Sorry, first-years. If you’re not living with a snorer, a stoner or a sociopath, you’re probably one of the three. The assigned rooming situation is one that we happily move past — although room draw likewise inspires tears and restraining orders.
Even when things work out, like with my current roommate (whom I’ve lived with since freshman year), the start can be rocky and awkward. My first memory of her is when she wordlessly busted into our suite having had a delayed return from FOOT, with blood-covered blisters on her hands and feet that can only be described as stigmata-like; hers of me is later that night when she — finally having showered, unpacked and bandaged her hiking wounds — looked out of our common room window and saw me making out with some dude in the courtyard.
Now she is one of my best friends and someone I would gladly room with anytime and anywhere, but what kind of environment would force freaks like us to sleep five feet apart after exchanging naught but a few dozen words and slightly terrifying first impressions? Throw in some lanyard keychains and a kickball tournament or two, and THAT sounds more like the camps of my peers’ preadolescence. And you know what? Ten bucks says there’ll be Tater Tots next Saturday.
Sarah Minkus might still remember the guy she hooked up with her first Camp Yale.