If you are new here, this is not a typical post, but this is the perfect post for you. Don’t Let The Days Go By is an episodic continuing story about a university student figuring out life. I am currently on hiatus after finishing writing about Year 2. Sometime later this spring I will start writing and posting about Year 3.
This week I will be recapping and summarizing Year 1, and next week I will do the same for Year 2. Many of my current readers have not been following the story since the beginning, so this is an opportunity to catch up. I will also include links to some, but not all, of the episodes, so you can read an abridged version of the story more detailed than this recap. As always, you can start from the first episode (here) and keep clicking Next if you want to read the entire story, 88 episodes so far.
In the summer of 1993, my parents took me on quick driving tours of universities, so I could start thinking about what to do after high school.
I lived in Plumdale, a semi-rural area on the West Coast of the United States. The University of Jeromeville, about a two and a half hour car trip from home, offered me a scholarship for my grades. They also invited me to be part of the Interdisciplinary Honors Program, a program for honors freshmen who live in the same building and take general education classes specific to that program.
I chose to attend Jeromeville, and I moved there in the fall of 1994. I made lots of new friends in Building C, the Interdisciplinary Honors Program dormitory. Taylor, the friendly guy fond of deep conversations. Danielle, the girl just down the hall from me who sang in the school choir. Caroline, Danielle’s roommate who had lived in Australia for over a decade. Liz and Ramon, one of the first couples to form once the school year began. Pete, downstairs, who taught me the board game Risk. Sarah, a good listener with a kind heart. And dozens of others.
Growing up, my family was Catholic, but I did not attend church regularly. Mom told me to look for the Newman Center, a ministry for Catholic students at non-Catholic universities, when I got to Jeromeville. The Jeromeville Newman Center held student-focused Masses in a building just off campus; my dorm neighbor Danielle also attended Mass at Newman, and sang in the choir. Many of my friends from Building C attended Jeromeville Christian Fellowship, a nondenominational organization with small group Bible studies and weekly meetings with worship music and a talk. JCF was not affiliated with a church, but many of my friends in JCF attended an Evangelical Covenant church.
In addition to my Building C friends, I had other new friends as well. I discovered this newly emerging technology called the Internet while at UJ, and I used it quite often to talk to girls on IRC, the chat room system of the early Internet. I also met people from UJ not in my dorm: Jack, a mathematics major who was in many of the same math classes as me. Mike Knepper and Tabitha, two students who lived in nearby dorms and were in the same Bible study as my friends from JCF. And Megan, a friendly resident advisor in one of the other dorms near mine. Megan was a sophomore, my first older friend at UJ other than my own resident advisors. Our conversations around the dining hall and the Resident Help Window quickly developed into a crush on my part. I considered becoming a resident advisor for sophomore year: this would give me room and board for next year, and I would get to help create the same friendly dorm environment that I experienced. Also, I would get to work with Megan, since she would be a resident advisor again the following year.
The University of Jeromeville is a beautiful campus. It is located in the western United States, in the middle of a large valley that is a major agricultural area. The university was founded as a branch campus of the state’s flagship university, for students studying agriculture. Beyond the core part of campus, next to the city of Jeromeville, the campus extends west on about three square miles of farmland used for agricultural research. A dry creek bed along the south end of campus had been converted into a very skinny lake about a mile and a half long, with an arboretum planted along both banks, for both scientific and recreational purposes. I quickly discovered how much I loved exploring this campus on my bicycle.
I was not used to staying up late. Back home, I went to bed around ten o’clock, and it took me quite some time to get used to the schedule of dormitory life, with students being noisy late at night. Quiet hours began at 11:00 on weeknights and midnight on weekends, but the resident advisors enforced this with varying levels of accuracy. One night, after a particularly bad day, I was awakened by people inconsiderately talking in the middle of the night. I opened my door angrily and overreacted, then I ran away, ashamed of having lost my cool in front of my new friends.
But my friends did not react the way I expected, and to this day, that night feels like a major turning point in my life.
During that year, living in a tiny, boring single room in the dorm, I did a lot of reading and writing. I had always had a creative side that I did not show often. I started writing poetry as a hobby during that year, both funny and serious. In the spring, I added some more creative projects. During UJ’s spring break, I visited my old high school, which was not on break, and that brought back so many memories that I wrote a short novel based on my experiences senior year of high school. Also, around that time, two free-spirited girls in my dorm, Skeeter and Bok, began regularly painting abstract watercolors in the common room, with others contributing sometimes.
With Jeromeville being a fairly small city next to a large university, the rental housing market in Jeromeville was extremely tight. Students were only guaranteed one year of living on campus, with there being so few dormitories, and my plan to be a resident advisor did not work out. When my friends were making plans to room together and get apartments for the 1995-96 school year, I was oblivious and missed out. My parents said that we could afford for me to get a small studio apartment, but apartments were filling up quickly. After weighing all the options, I chose to sign a lease on a studio apartment in a complex called Las Casas, about a mile north of campus and within a short walk of two other apartment complexes where many of my closest friends would be living next year.
As a student at UJ, I got to experience many of the campus traditions that have united generations of UJ students. I attended Jeromeville Colts football and basketball games and learned the cheers. I learned the hard way the importance of putting fenders on your bicycle wheels when it rains. But the best tradition of all was the Spring Picnic, the university’s annual open house that had evolved over the years into a huge festival. Dozens of academic departments, student groups, clubs, and performing groups had exhibits and shows during the Spring Picnic. In addition to all the fun I had wandering those exhibits, I also watched a band called Lawsuit, on Megan’s recommendation. The band was amazing, sounding like nothing I had ever heard before.
In school, I had always worked hard for good grades, and I was always one of the top students in my class, but never quite the top. I had kept up my good grades at UJ, with my lowest grade so far this year being one A-minus. I had not declared a major yet. My favorite classes in high school were always mathematics and classes involving mathematics, like chemistry and physics. I enjoyed computers as a hobby, but I felt my computer knowledge was too out of date for me to be a computer science major, and I grew up sheltered in an area without many high-paying jobs, so I never even considered anything like engineering because I had no previous exposure to engineering. The physics class for science and engineering majors starts in the spring, and after the first midterm, I decided to declare mathematics as my major. I still found mathematics relatively easy, as well as fascinating, whereas that physics midterm was the worst test score I had ever gotten in my life. It all worked out in the end, though.
Spring quarter was full of fun adventures. I experienced my first college party, sort of, when a bunch of people upstairs threw a party. I played Sardines in the strangest building on campus with my dorm friends. I went for more bike rides as the weather got warmer and discovered bike trails passing through some of the newer neighborhoods of Jeromeville. I got brave and called a girl from the Internet on the phone, and wrote letters to another who was going home for the summer and would not have email. But the greatest adventure of all happened on the evening of the last day of finals, when half of Building C all went out to Jeromeville’s best hole-in-the-wall burger place, and then bowling. It was the perfect end to a wonderful and life-changing year, and it left me looking forward to next year… if I could just get through three months of summer away from my new life.
Dramatis personae for Year 1 (list of characters)
Here is a bonus, something I just found a few weeks ago (altered for anonymity purposes): the only photo I have of myself in Building C. It was taken in Bok’s room at her birthday party; someone else took the picture and gave it to me.
Next week I will recap year 2. In case you missed it, here is the playlist of songs I used in year 1. As always, please leave comments or suggestions or questions for me. I love hearing from all of you.