14: Experiment

14: Experiment

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles


All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My freshman year of college, I experimented. But not in the sense that would make most parents squeamish. In high school, I found my niche. I had a set group of friends, I was a member of clubs, I was a part of sports teams, I wrote for publications, and I felt comfortable knowing I had a place I belonged.

In college, I entered as a guppy in a sea of students who meant nothing to me. In this new world, I was undefined, and I immediately searched for a place where I fit in. I tried out for the cheerleading squad, to no avail. I tried out for the dance team and left tryouts intimidated. So I moved on to Plan C. Second semester of freshman year I decided to take a swing dancing class. I wanted to meet new people and I figured what better way to do so than in a completely forced social setting. This was the best decision I made throughout my college years — next to refraining from going out and drinking that Tuesday night before my big test, and deciding not to spend the night with the fraternity boy who asked me to his formal.

Swing dance class met every Tuesday and Thursday in the basement of the university gymnasium. I could not have been more nervous — a little freshman, unsure of what to wear for swing class, what shoes to bring, or who my classmates would be. I didn’t know the first thing about swing dancing. The class consisted of about seven girls and four boys, one of whom caught my eye. Standing at 6’2’’ in his jeans, tight T-shirt, and sneakers, I knew I had seen him before but I couldn’t place him. Then I realized that he was in my communications class the previous semester. He was the outspoken one who sat in the middle of my row and was always on his laptop. I remembered being impressed by him and his quick, witty responses when the teacher called on the student least likely to be paying attention. That was how I remembered Eamon Brennan. The story of how we fell in love is much more remarkable.

Swing class began with the choice of a partner. Rather than being forward and running over to the cute boy to ask him to dance, I waited on the side of the room to be selected. Unfortunately, one of the socially awkward boys in the corner decided to make his way over to me and asked if I’d be his partner. As I glanced at Eamon, who had made eye contact with me, I felt the urge to say “I’d rather dance with the sexy boy over there...” but instead I said, “Sure.”

Luckily, I soon found out you switch partners, moving clockwise after every count of eight. Three partners later, I was in Eamon’s arms... literally. We officially introduced ourselves and danced as if we had been friends, maybe even more, for years and years. Our eyes locked and even when we weren’t partners we made eye contact across the room. Our secret glances were betrayed by the mirrored walls, and the chemistry could be felt across the room. Two or three weeks went by with us exchanging flirtatious glances, and one night after class Eamon asked if he could walk me home. I ecstatically accepted and so began our series of dates.

Eamon and I have been dating for nearly two years now and my college experience has been greatly shaped by my decision to take that swing dance class.

I wasn’t looking to find love when I enrolled in a swing dance class and I wasn’t looking to find a lifelong hobby. I was exploring my options. The best advice I can give a college student is to experiment. Don’t experiment with sex, drugs, and rock and roll — but experiment with the things that will matter in ten years. Experiment with the things that help you find your own current in a sea of swimming fish.

~Jamie Miles

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