December 06, 2007

Put on yer booties, 'cuz it's cold out there

My freshman year of college was many things. Many more than I could articulate in the short space I have here. In some ways, it was the most expensive year of my life. In others it was the cheapest. You can't pay for many of the learning experiences I had. I'm sure most people feel similarly. My first semester of college was at an exclusive private college. I couldn't afford to go there. I had the biggest aid package they could muster. Mostly it was loans. That semester cost more than the remaining 4.5 years combined.

Let me explain a little more of the phrase, I couldn't afford it. They gave me a dorm room that cost more than I could gather in financial aid. I had no other money. It's practically unheard of for a freshman to live off campus. I did it. I lived in a friends basement. I didn't have a choice. I missed the best part of the freshman experience. I say that, but in retrospect, I could have lived there had I tried a little harder. I did have the meal plan. I didn't have a winter coat. In the mid-west, where temps can reach 30 below zero that's insane. I had two jean jackets I wore together to stay warm. I wore double sweatshirts and everything else I could find to stay warm.

I developed a scheme to raise money for a new coat. A brown leather jacket I coveted at the mall. I put it on lay-away (do they still have that?) I made payments whenever I could come up with $20. Eventually, the coat was mine. I ended up wearing that coat for a very long time. The collar is stained dark with skin oils. The pockets are worn out, the lining is shot. I can't seem to throw it away. It hides in the back of my closet not quite forgotten. A reminder of different minds and different times.


At 12:46 AM, Blogger Buffalo said...

Good piece, MM. Whatever you missed from the "freshman experience" were outweighed by the other lessons you learned.

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Vesper said...

An evocative bitter-sweet post. I'm glad you're keeping the leather jacket; it is the symbol of a time, hard and beautiful, synonymous with an important part of your youth. Very well written.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger Think Frustrated said...

I never stayed in a dorm. I commuted to school. That just gave me time to get stoned in the car before class, so I missed out on a lot of the college experience, namely, remembering anything I learned. Still, I graduated with a 3.97 GPA, so...

I would keep the jacket, too. It's a symbol of your struggle. Oh, and they do still have layaway.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger CampusGirl said...

Great post, it kind of strikes a chord with me. I also commuted to school. I took the bus, train and subway, met all the crazies en route, missed classes when inclement weather caused public transportation to be unreliable and late, and am still in my freshman year (and of course, still follow this dismal routine). It's not as bad as it could be, but I do sure wish I was on campus, in a dorm, underage drinking with the rest of the collegiates.


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