99: Dorm Room Distress

99: Dorm Room Distress

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College

Dorm Room Distress

Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers.

~Victor Hugo

I remember driving to K-State for the first time with my parents on an early, very early, August morning. My parents drove our minivan full of my clothes, shower supplies, food and other personal belongings, which I knew would never fit in the dormitory, but couldn’t bring myself to discard. I followed behind them eagerly in my car. The reality of the situation, of leaving home, never really set in until I found myself in the driver’s seat cruising down the highway and I realized that there was no turning back.

It was finally time to move away from the safety and comfort of the mother’s nest and venture into the unknown and sometimes dangerous world of college. I was anxious, nervous, excited but mostly scared. I was leaving behind many of my friends from high school, leaving behind everything I knew to be familiar and safe in order to pursue the coveted and prized bachelor’s degree in a field that I was convinced would make me a lot of money once I graduated, if I graduated. I felt as I am sure many other freshmen felt that morning — my life will forever change, for better or worse by this experience they call college.

My parents and I arrived on campus, and as I looked around, my feelings of anxiety and fear rapidly evolved to pure panic. What lay before my eyes was a chaotic menagerie of parents and new students scurrying around like rabid squirrels, endlessly searching for the last acorn before a cold winter set in. It was a race to see who could move their child in the fastest, who could conquer the endless crowd first. They had assigned me a potluck roommate and a dorm room on the seventh of eight floors in the dormitory.

Needless to say, I was one of thousands of people trying to move into a building that had only two elevators. After countless trips to the parking lot, which was not so conveniently located a quarter mile away from my building, and endless hours of riding one of two elevators, both of which I was convinced would plummet to the basement at any given moment, we lost the race. It was then that I felt a little bitter for waking up at four in the morning to make a simple, non-threatening two-hour drive across the state, only to have my plans of an easy and quick move-in thwarted by thousands of others who had stolen my idea. For me, dormitory move-in day was reminiscent of Black Friday during the Christmas shopping season; everyone was tired, angry or on edge, and we were all spending a lot of money on things we might later deem useless, unwanted or simply not worth the money.

After I had moved in and settled down, it took nearly a week before I met my roommate. He wasn’t around much; I think his name was Carl. That week gave me a lot of time to sit alone and wonder why I had decided to leave everything and everyone I knew behind. My dorm room felt like a prison cell, with windows that never quite shut and carpeting that screamed of years of abuse. While everyone was running around with their friends, eager to see what this new city had to offer, I trapped myself in my room unable to conquer my fear of rejection in the eyes of my peers. So I sat in my room, unwilling to put my shyness aside, and patiently waited for someone else to make the first move toward friendship. I remember that I cried myself to sleep the first two nights I was there. I was furious with myself for jumping so recklessly outside my comfort zone and being overly confident that everything would fall into my lap. I felt utterly alone.

It took nearly two weeks for me to muster up enough courage to break out of my self-induced house arrest. It was a Thursday night and I had just finished eating my seventh or eighth helping of Easy Mac that week. I looked outside my window and all I could see was a massive group of people gathered outside a house across the street.

I decided that it was now or never. I knew that the first few weeks at school were critical to meeting people and developing friendships that would hopefully last throughout my college career. So, I took a chance. I realized that there was much more to gain than to lose from the situation. The risk versus reward weighed heavily on the side of reward once I sat down and really thought it through.

I played it out in my head and came to the conclusion that the worst case scenario would go something like this — I would walk over there, try to meet some people and at the very worst I would leave in the same position that I was already in. If by some chance things went well, then maybe I wouldn’t have to feel so alone; maybe I would actually meet some people who accepted me and would welcome me into their group.

Walking over to the party and leaving my shyness, if only momentarily, in the dorm room was the best decision of my college career. At the party I met a guy named Brian. We started talking about this and that, where we grew up, what our major was and how we felt about the little city of Manhattan, Kansas. Brian was a member of a fraternity and after I told him I had yet to meet any friends, he convinced me to come by his fraternity house and meet the rest of the guys.

The next day he called me and invited me over for dinner at the house. I was nervous at first, but I came to realize that there was no need to be nervous — they obviously wanted me there if they took the time to call me and invite me over. The hard part was over. Later that week, I moved out of my dorm room, with the help of a dozen new friends and moved into the fraternity house.

If I had never left my dorm room that night it would have been the biggest mistake of my life thus far. I chose to face my fears and put my emotions aside by taking a chance in a new place. I found a group of friends who I will remember and treat as brothers for the rest of my life. Fraternities aren’t for everyone, but the point is that you have to take control of your life. You cannot depend on somebody else to make it easy for you. If I had given in to my shy tendencies that night, I wouldn’t have any of the friends and memories that I do today.

~Aaron Ewert

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