A recent exercise has me thinking about smaller watershed moments in my life. Going off to college was certainly one of them. I was originally accepted at Northeastern University in Boston, where I spent a little more than a half-year before I knew it wasn’t the right place for me. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to go to college in a city and needed to make a change. I also wanted to be somewhat far away from home. I’m not sure if I was running away from problems, but that was likely some of the reason why – to dry out and separate myself from all kinds of issues going on. I don’t think it’s the best idea to simply run away from stuff like that, but I do believe to this day it was a very good idea. Part of it was also a itch to just spend time in another part of the country, since my only travel of significant distance had been to California when I was maybe 13. So I scratched the itch. In the fall of 1990, I went off to college for real, a 607 mile drive to Kent, Ohio. The whole Northeastern thing – a mulligan, really.
I really got to know that route quite well! Anyway, that feeling of a whole new start, far away from home and limitless possibilities. Well, it was exciting! For me, a little nerve-wracking as well, but exciting. Anticipation of meeting your first roommate you’re not related to. Of meeting an entirely new set of people from an entirely different part of the country! My first roommate was from McKees Rocks, PA. His name was also Jeff and he was a backwards hat-wearing, tobacco chewing, Rush-listening Pittsburgh Steelers fan. It wasn’t a good fit, but it was ok. I ended up moving into another room after the first semester, not because I hated Jeff or anything, just because I got along quite well with another guy from Dayton, whose name was Charles.
That year in the dorm, sociologically, may have been the most interesting year of my life and most certainly watershed. We lived in Terrace Hall, which has since been torn down. So many characters. Some of the names have slipped from my mind given it was 20 years ago, but there was an older guy who wanted to be a chef, I think. There was a true JAP (and I don’t mean Japanese). There was a guy, Andy, who claimed his upbringing was very much like Family Ties. There was Ron Brown and another guy, who lived in the room next to us and tripped on acid almost every weekend. We heard some wild shit going on in that room! There was a whole group of guys who played cards nearly every night, listened to Judas Priest really loud, drank a LOT and made a lot of noise. They were OHIO GUYS, so they had a slight accent and lived for beer and football. Hilarious. I met my good friend John Horton there, who I still keep in touch with today. My favorite memory of John is his television, some 1960s relic that had a remote control with ONE button on it. Classic. I met my girlfriend and her brother there. So many people!
It opened up the world for me a little bit. Made me a little more aware of cultures, of color, of personality. It was an awakening of sorts. Of course, my world would get blown wide open after college, when I drove around the entire country and much later on, met my wife and traveled to Europe. But that year in the dorm, much like a lot of us who go off to college, was really something. If you weren’t changed by it in some way, shape or form, then you must have been sleeping a lot!