Sunday, October 23, 2005

Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic pt.4 : A New Hope

I have so many stories about my days in Parker that I could probably stretch this Secret Origins series out for months and months; instead, I think I’ll just hit the highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be), and save the more specific stories for more general posts; perhaps a new Flashback Friday series, or some more Spotlight On entries? So please, take a moment and enjoy this first leg of our running tour of Cap’n Neurotic’s College Years.

In the fall of 1993 I became one of the first residents of the newly minted Honors dorm at OSU, Parker Hall. The dorm itself was not new, nor was it to be called a dorm, for that matter; officially, it was a Residence Hall, a name that was meant to inspire feelings of hominess and belonging, not a place where you sleep, but a place where you reside; a name which was ignored by all but those who worked for the Residence Halls, much as everyone called frats "frats" except for frat boys; yes the dorm wasn't new but its designation as the Honors' hall was. Parker was the only co-ed dorm which allowed Freshmen; men lived on 2nd and 3rd floors, women on 4th and 5th.

That first semester in Parker was a whirlwind of socialization. At the time, I was sure I was the only one trying to stretch myself; I know now that even those who seemed totally together to my untrained eye were also often taking advantage of the new setting to get a new start. The groups and cliques shifted like quicksand; there was no telling from one day to the next who was going to be hanging out with whom. The specialized living conditions helped; as Honors students we all had something in common other than just being college Freshmen, including many of us being in the same classes. In a regular dorm you might have one or two classes with a couple of people on your floor; in Parker, the odds were much higher. We were also a much smaller population to pull from, which gave the dorm an almost small-town feel; by the time the first year was over, I knew every resident by name, even if they didn’t know me.

Initially I think I gravitated towards the more stereotypically "nerdy" residents, but over time I moved more towards the . . . well, I hesitate to say "more average" about anyone in Parker, so how about "less stereotypical?" Honestly, I was just bouncing from group to group, looking for the spot that fit me best. It was this searching for my place that prompted Coronela's roommate to accuse me of having no personality of my own.

This mercurial socialization was strongest in the first couple of months; every evening would find a different assortment of random individuals congregating in the 1st floor living room or lobby, staying up to all hours of the night discussing every topic under the sun. While there was a lot of variation in the makeup of these groups, there were a few near-constants, among whom you can count yours truly. I was drawn to these late night gatherings by my desire to be included in everything; I had distanced myself from so much in the past that I was determined that I wasn’t going to let it happen again. Of course, while I was a de facto member of these gatherings, I don’t recall adding much of interest to the discussions very often; my life experiences were a bit less worldly than those of most of my dorm-mates; I was happy just to drink it all in.

As the semester progressed, these gatherings would begin to decrease in number, as people began to remember that the reason they were there was not just for socialization, but also all of those pesky classes. However, there were a few who still frequented the 1st floor late into the night; once again, your favorite Cap’n Neurotic was among them. This would be one of the reasons why I almost made it onto the probationary list for the Honors program that first semester, barely squeezing out a B in Chemistry thanks to my high lab grade; the tests, on which the professor refused to allow any partial credit, kicked my non-studious butt.

“Non-studious?” some of the non-Parkerites might be asking themselves right now. “But how can that be? You were an honor student, straight-A student in high school, graduated top of your class; doesn’t that mean that you loved school and studying and all that junk?” Not even close. You see, there are generally two types of Honors Students: those who work hard, and those who are quick studies. There is that occasional mating of the two, the hard working quick studies, but in my experience they’re much rarer than most people think. In case you hadn’t guessed it, I fall in the “quick study” category. People always thought of me as an over-achiever, but I have always maintained that there was no “over” about it: I was just an achiever, plain and simple. Okay, maybe I was a “slightly-above-average achiever,” but an over-achiever? Never. Throughout my early school years, being a quick study was enough to get me through most of my classes with little effort on my part; I made the mistake of thinking the same would apply at college. So, when we weren’t given any required homework for Chem, just some “suggested problems” to work, I sluffed them off, eager to partake in more nocturnal chat-fests, sure that some last minute cramming would more than do the trick.

Even when I realized that it wasn’t enough, breaking my night-owl habits was difficult, nigh unto impossible for me. I was hooked; addicted to my newfound social life. Of course, I was still skirting the outside in some aspects, but even at those times when I felt slighted in some way, there was little of the usual spiral of self-doubt and loathing; I was finally starting to accept that I might have some worth. By the time the first semester ended, I had 4 or 5 people who I felt some sort of connection with, including Coronela, Wrath teh Berzerkr, and Dr. G’ovich. I wouldn’t start to really strengthen and deepen these bonds until the Spring semester, which began what I like to think of as The Golden Year. But even with the bonds existing at only a tenuous level, by the time I went back to Wyandotte for Christmas break, I had already begun to think of Parker as my second home; maybe the whole "Residence Hall is a place you reside" thing wasn't so corny after all. No, wait a minute, it was, it definitely was; doesn't make it any less true, though.