All Things Must Pass
As my Freshman year of college comes to a close, I, and my fellow homies, have understandably been undergoing one of those strange phases in which everything you do is the “last time” you’ll ever do it. Whenever going through a time of change, all the daily people, sights, and routines you have come to simultaneously love and hate suddenly possess a profound significance because you know it won’t ever be the same.
Walking over to the library to write these sentences, I embarked from my dorm on my usual stroll past a field where you can occasionally find sheep, the Campus Market that often smells like onion rings, and into our monolithic library that reminds me of a massive cinder block. I plugged my headphones in, queued George Harrison’s nostalgia inducing tune “All Things Must Pass”, and floated through what memories I found significant enough to include in this post.
I wafted through memories of the stereotypical big moments, such as experiencing the overly hyped (and subsequently disappointing) “Week of Welcome”, the night of initiation into my Fraternity, and my first taste of the unnerving energy of a college campus in the midst of Finals Week, but I quickly found that when attempting to write about the “big” things, my ideas fell flat.
After some reflection, I realized:
1.) The little moments make the big moments.
For example, there was a Halloween themed party back in October, and I, being the easily excitable and stupid teenager I am, got incredibly intoxicated by pounding cheap plastic bottle vodka and chasing it with soda that tastes like melted orange cream popsicles. Upon making it back to my dorm, rather than drinking some water and passing out, I instead barged into Room 208 (the girls room across the hall), plopped myself on their bright red couch, and proceeded to profess my entire life story in a rambling, slurring, and incoherent mess. I was there until 2:30 AM, dressed in scrubs (our pledge class dressed up as nurses), and I was citing the French Revolution. At one point, I was crying and talking about how I missed my mom. It was pretty fuckin’ ridiculous.
Another time, towards the end of Fall Quarter, I smashed a watermelon on my head. My roommates and I blasted the aggressive metal song “Blind” by Korn, the dark bass riffs built up to a climax, and all it took was five hits to the noggin’. Instead of resting peacefully in the refrigerator, the watermelon’s juices were soaking into my hair, pooling on the floor, and dripping down the walls. It was pretty stupid, but that’s why it was so fun.
Also, a little tradition my roommates and I enjoyed was what we coined “Mad Dog Mondays.” Mad Dog 357 is a mouth scorching hot sauce with a Scoville level of 357,000. To give some context, a standard Jalapeño ranks at a Scoville rating of 5,000. Mad Dog is one of those hot sauce brands that attempts to lure testosterone fueled males by attacking their masculinity. Running across the label, it warns “Use at Your Own Risk” and “This Hot Sauce Will Blow Your Mind!”
Thing is, it fuckin’ worked.
We bought a bag of tortilla chips, poured a good sized glob of the Mad Dog evenly amongst the six of us, blasted aggressive metal (again), and proceeded to expose our bodies to a pepper we couldn’t handle. Within about 10 seconds, our faces flushed tomato red, our eyes bulged with the realization this shit was no joke, and acting like third graders who had just stubbed their toe, we cried and whined all the way down to the Campus Market where we found safety in the sweet relief of a quart of milk.
We hated ourselves so much, we decided to memorialize Mad Dog and enact our new ritual on the last Monday of every month.
I could go on and on with these strange little stories, but the point is these are the moments I’ll truly miss. I’ll miss wandering over to Room 208 and making a fool of myself. I’ll miss the absurdity of smashing an overly ripe watermelon on my head. I’ll miss watching my buddy Will desperately trying to curb the searing pain of Mad Dog by chugging milk and devouring Oreos.
2.) Nostalgia, that wonderfully bitter-sweet pain that afflicts us all, arises from these little moments.
Maybe it’s the weird smell of Onion rings near the Campus Market, or the pleasant aroma of pine trees, or a song from your past you’d forgotten existed, but we all have certain experiences that grab us by the collar of our shirts, and launch us into the glow of the past. It’s a piercing sensation that takes a fond memory, stabs you with a short pang of wistful longing, and then makes you smile (or sob, depending on the memory and type of person you are). Nostalgia is one of the most interesting and poignant emotions we experience because it is sadness born from happiness. It is longing for a time in the past, and yet, despite the wistful sorrow I experience in moments of nostalgia, I often find myself smiling.
I remember when I was in 6th grade, I went to visit my brother’s Freshman year dorm at U.C. Santa Cruz. My family pulled up in the parking lot, and I looked out the car window in childlike wonder at this mystifying place called “college.” In my head, all the students I saw walking around were mature adults, studying vigorously and living grown up lives. I remember meeting my brother’s big burly roommate, gazing at the Rock n’ Roll posters on the dorm room walls, and staring with bright eyes at a pick up volleyball game going on just outside. Phew, these people were cool.
Fast forward to now, and I’m in the same position as my brother, but I look around me, and although I have the Rock n’ Roll posters supporting bands like Pink Floyd and Radiohead, I don’t see mature adults. Hell, I look at myself, smashing watermelons and crying in girl’s dorm rooms, and realize there is plenty wrong. There are times we drink too much, procrastinate, and neglect our responsibilities. There are times we eat like shit, don’t exercise, and don’t study.
And this brings me to a pattern I’ve noticed in the way I remember the past, and I feel a lot of people could relate. I tend to cast a golden blanket over the hardships and pain I inevitably experienced growing up through middle school, high school, and now, my first year of college. Instead of remembering the past for the convoluted and winding path of equal parts boredom, excitement, and loneliness it is, I cherry pick the best moments.
At the beginning of this school year, as excited as I was to tumble through a washer machine of new experience, there were times where I felt alienated, lonely, and depressed. I’d come home during the first weeks of school, retreat to the corner of my bed, and listen to melancholy soaked Radiohead songs, wondering “Where the fuck am I?” and “Who are these people?”
What’s difficult is that there is so much pressure to put on a happy face when you first arrive. All your friends from high school are off on their own adventures, posting Snapchat stories from parties and Instagram pictures with their new friends, and when you are feeling like shit, seeing everybody else having the time of their lives makes you feel like double shit. It’s as if you get insecure and anxious because you’re feeling insecure and anxious. It’s a vicious cycle.
Fortunately, things turned around. I joined a fraternity, found a great group of friends, and now consider Cal Poly a second home, but that doesn’t mean I want to erase the anxiety and stress it took to get to where I’m at now.
My mom and I often like to joke about how many people come to college with an unrealistic expectation in their head, and we like to compare it to a game show. It’s easy to imagine you plop down into your freshman dorm, and there waiting for you is a man in suit and tie, microphone in hand, pointing you to your new best friends and future wife.
Kind of like this guy comes out of nowhere:
He pulls back the curtain, and suddenly, you’re doing stupid shit like this with your new best friends:
But, no. That’s not how it works. You have to take leaps of faith, go through moments of doubt, and muster up the courage to put yourself out there and find your people. You’re not going to find your future wife if you don’t ask a girl out on a date, and you’re not going to find your new best friends holed up in your room listening to Radiohead.
To conclude, I’d like to share this line I wrote in my journal about three weeks into arriving at Cal Poly:
And thank the Lord I kept going because these past 7 or so months have been some of the most exciting, eye opening, and motivating of my life. From my roommates in 207, to the girls across the hall in 208, to my pledge brothers, and to all the wonderful people I've met in Poly Canyon Village and beyond, we’ve all shared this confusing and formative time in our lives, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the emotional roller coaster it has been.
To leave you with the words of George Harrison,
“Sunrise doesn’t last all morning,
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day.”
Tunes I've been digging:
// All Things Must Pass // George Harrison
// Another Story // The Head and The Heart
// My Old Man // Mac Demarco
Also, if you want to see the video of me being an idiot: