If this is your first time here on Don’t Let The Days Go By, welcome. DLTDGB is a continuing story set in 1997 (currently), about a university student making his way in life. I am currently on hiatus from writing; the story will continue sometime in June. Today’s post is a recap of the highlights of year 3.
I spent a week at my parents’ house at the beginning of summer, in which my brother and I made a board game based on all of our silly inside jokes. I then returned to Jeromeville to take a summer school computer science class.
After making lots of new friends the previous year, summer was more lonely. Jeromeville Christian Fellowship did not have their weekly meeting, although there was one Bible study for students still around in the summer. Many of my friends had left Jeromeville for the summer, including my crush, Haley Channing. A few interesting things happened around my apartment complex, including accidentally hitting someone’s taillight, a friendly new neighbor, and an interesting conversation with the TA for the computer class, whose girlfriend lived at the complex. Ramon, Jason, and Caroline, my friends from freshman year whose apartment I could walk to in five minutes, were still around for the summer, and I shared with them a new creative project I began.
The college pastor of Jeromeville Covenant Church got married that summer. I did not attend J-Cov, nor did I know this pastor, but many of my friends did, and I got to see a lot of them that weekend. I also got to see Lawsuit, my favorite local independent band, two more times that year before they broke up. Shortly before I moved out of my little studio apartment, my Bible study surprised me with cupcakes for my 20th birthday.
I went to my parents’ house again for a week. My brother and his friends had a tournament for a game called Moport, a hybrid of several sports that we used to play in the yard. When I returned to Jeromeville, I moved into a three-bedroom apartment with three other guys. I shared the large bedroom with Shawn Yang, my Bible study leader from the previous year. Brian Burr, one of Shawn’s previous roommates, also lived with us; he was working part time for Jeromeville Christian Fellowship while applying to medical school. Josh McGraw, the boyfriend of our friend Abby, lived in the other room; I did not know him as well, because he kept odd hours. Shawn and Brian and I pulled off an epic toilet-papering prank, the first one I was ever involved with; then the week after that, Brian and I went to Outreach Camp with dozens of other JCF students.
I began classes for the fall the week after that. Notably on my schedule, I was in University Chorus for the first time. I did not have a background in voice or classical music, but I had been singing at Mass at the Newman Center for about a year at the time, and I had several friends in chorus who had been encouraging me to participate.
I had grown up Catholic, and I had been attending Mass more regularly since coming to Jeromeville. But I had also gotten involved with JCF, which was nondenominational, and after learning more about what it really means to follow Jesus, I noticed some things happening at the Newman Center that left me feeling like it might not be the best place for someone really wanting to learn about Jesus and the Bible. But I also did not want to start going to church with my new friends just because it was the cool place to be; I wanted to make the right decision. So for about a month, I went to church twice every Sunday, at Jeromeville Covenant with my friends and then at Newman where I had been for two years. After much thought and prayer, I decided to attend J-Cov full time.
The more I got involved with JCF, I started to see a lot of cliques within the group, and despite being more involved there, I was still on the outside of the cliques. A ministry within JCF purporting to train students for future leadership selected its students by invitation only, and I felt excluded sometimes by the students in this group. It was a particularly sensitive issue for me because Haley was in the group, and other guys seemed to be paying attention to her. I got brave and told her during the last week of the quarter how I felt about her, and she did not feel the same way about me.
A lot of other, less depressing things happened that December. I had my first concert for chorus, and my parents came up to see it. And I traveled farther east than I ever had before, the first time I remember being on an airplane although Mom says I was on one once as a baby. Intervarsity, the parent organization of JCF, hosts a convention every three years in Urbana, Illinois, and as a newly practicing Christian, I wanted to learn more about ministry opportunities. I was not ready to serve Jesus in some other country myself, but many of my friends were doing those kinds of projects during the summer, and I wanted to learn more.
I found my place to serve soon after that, but it was not through any connection I made at Urbana. One Sunday afternoon after church at J-Cov, three teenage boys randomly walked up to me and asked if I wanted to go to McDonald’s with them. I said sure, and we had a great time hanging out that afternoon. Taylor Santiago, one of my friends from freshman year, was a volunteer with the junior high school youth group at J-Cov, but he was going to be gone all spring and summer doing urban ministry in Chicago. After Taylor noticed me hanging out with those guys, he suggested that I try out being a youth group leader, taking his place while he was gone. I did, and I loved it. I knew several of the other youth group leaders from church, and my roommate Josh, the one I barely knew, was a leader too.
That winter was when the Star Wars movies were rereleased with new footage, and Brian was a huge Star Wars fan. I was not anti-Star Wars, but I did not grow up with Star Wars like many other boys born in the 1970s did. But with the movies in theaters again, and Brian as a roommate, I was instantly hooked. I had never seen Return of the Jedi as a child; I saw it for the first time on the day it was rereleased, one of the few times I ever skipped class. But that night, my Star Wars-fueled excitement fizzled as I struggled to deal with my lingering feelings for Haley and her apparent interest in Ramon.
I had been doing a lot of thinking about my future that winter and spring, since I was well into my third year of university studies without a clear goal for what to do after graduation. Two of my favorite professors offered welcome suggestions. Dr. Thomas told me about the federally funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs at various schools all over the country. I applied to some of those, got accepted to two, and chose the one in Oregon because it was the closer of the two. My other favorite professor, Dr. Samuels, had done a lot of work with education and suggested that I would make a good teacher. I had never considered being a teacher, because of all the politics involved, but I decided to give it a chance. Dr. Samuels set me up with an internship helping out in a precalculus classroom at Jeromeville High School.
During the time I was frustrated with the cliques within JCF, I got to be friends with people from University Life, the college group of another local church. I attended their group a few times, and although ultimately I stuck with JCF and J-Cov, I made some new friends through that experience.
I also got to be friends with the other youth group staff. Although we were primarily there to teach the students about Jesus and build relationships with them, part of what made the group so great was that we were also close with each other as a staff. Sometimes, my relationships with the other staff involved pranks.
Ever since Haley’s rejection, I was without a girl to think about and try to get to know. I’d had a few random encounters with cute girls that never went anywhere. Toward the end of that year, two freshmen girls from JCF caught my eye: Carrie, who was sweet and easy to talk to, and Sadie, whose outspoken conservatism was a breath of fresh air to a conservative-leaning student like me at a liberal secular university. The year ended on a good note; I was not as awful at this year’s Man of Steel competition compared to the previous year, and JCF threw Brian a nice going away party as he prepared to move to New York for medical school. I myself was headed off to Oregon to do mathematics research, but I was only leaving for eight weeks. I looked forward to whatever new adventures awaited me.
Of course, since I’ve just finished another year, that means another playlist of the music I used for this year.
So what did you guys think of Year 3? Do any of you have any burning unanswered questions going into Year 4? Thank you again for all of your support this year, and I hope that my stories have brought something positive into your lives. Let me know how you’re doing in the comments, and what you are up to these days.