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July 30, 2009

Just Who is This Blogger? - The College Years

As I sit here trying to stay hydrated in this heat, it strikes me that I never completed the "Who am I?" blog post. Consider this "Get to know your blogger" Day!

When I was a college student at Iowa State, I discovered something: while I wasn't one to hide completely from everybody and shake uncontrollably if I did get into a social situation, I was still the extremely shy one. I didn't go to parties, didn't date, and most of my friends were people who lived on the same dorm floor as me (or "house," as they're called at Iowa State; I was a proud member of the Elwood House in Helser Hall). I somewhat socialized with my floormates, got along ok with my roommates, but overall didn't make a lot of close friends. They were more people I could hang around with than anything else.

My first roommate, as a brand new freshman, was a guy from Hong Kong. Boy, was that an eye-opener! Other than some Cambodian refugees when I was in elementary school (or junior high, I forget), it's not like Davenport was a hotbed of multiculturism. So it was a big thing to be rooming with somebody from a foreign country. He was a nice enough guy, but we never really bonded much. Being from half-way around the world, he was on a totally different schedule than I was. When I got up to go to class, he was still in bed. When I got home, he was still in bed. When I got back from lunch, he was gone. He would be out until all hours, so he wasn't back by the time I went to bed. We never had the chance to talk, and he hung out with others like him. It saddens me a bit that we never really talked (his English wasn't that great, but I would hope it got better as time went on), and he transferred to the University of Iowa after one semester.

I went through two roommates the next two semesters, learning a lot from living with both of them. One stayed a friend as long as we lived on the same floor, but he moved out because he had a friend from back home he wanted to live with. The other guy, we just weren't that compatible. We got along ok, but we never really became friends at all. He became friends with somebody else on the floor and moved out the next term. Both experiences taught me about consideration for the people you live with, which has always come in handy in both relationships and life in general. My next roommate stayed for 3 semesters, until I moved into an apartment. He was a really great guy, and we kind of bonded because he was also kind of an outsider.

While I lived in the dorms, I had two real friends, and to this day I can't remember exactly how we met. One was into wargaming just as much as I was (we would play Squad Leader religiously, with me being the Germans in all scenarios because that way they would never win. :)) The other was a kindred spirit, and we got along famously. I was always in his room across the parking lot in Friley Hall, and we would go out and do things together. For some reason, throughout my childhood and even into college, I would gravitate to one or two friends and mainly stay with them, only hanging out with others on the rare occasion. I know it's common to have one or two "best" friends, but these were really my only friends. My wargaming buddy got a girlfriend who also entered our circle of friends, but to tell you about her would be a post in itself (and no, I probably won't get into it).

This all kind of changed my last year in the dorms, when Mike, John, and Al moved onto the floor. Somehow, we hit it off (I think I walked by their room one night and saw they were playing some awesome game on their Commodore Amiga, and a friendship was born). We also joined a campus bowling league and became closer friends with all of them because of that. We had a lot of fun together, and eventually John, Mike and I moved into an apartment together my senior year. One interesting fact is that I actually went out on a "date" with Mike's cousin, though it wasn't really much of a date. We went to a movie, but afterward she was meeting up with some friends so that's where it ended.

Which brings to mind the one other interesting thing about college: My dating life was non-existent. Still shy from what happened in high school and junior high, I was kind of starting to come out of it, but not to any great extent. I found that I could be friends with lots of women, but I would gravitate to those who were already "taken," having boyfriends (or, in one case, married). I'd be friends with them, pal around with them at times (I would actually go out and shoot pool, play darts, or bowl with the married one, with no jealous husband to worry about...I guess he trusted her that much), be the "safe" guy that they could hang out with too. But a single woman who I might actually have a chance to date? No dice. Too intimidated. I could only be myself around those women who I wasn't trying to impress, because I didn't have to. They were already "off the market," so to speak. That carried over even after college, in a way, though I did get a bit better at that as well. I had a classmate who was on the gymnastics team, and she was extremely hot. We talked in class and walked from class back to the dorms together, but that was it. I asked her to lunch once and we did have a nice lunch, but I was too nervous to do it again. I lost touch with her when that class ended.

So, you're asking, where are the stories of the wild parties and stuff like that? There aren't any, really. Like many college students, I had my first beer relatively early, but didn't really develop a taste for it until a semester or so after that. I think I remember getting drunk three or four times at most, and all of them led to interesting, if unrelatable experiences. I can't, my mom reads this blog! Ok, maybe at another time...if you're nice to me.

My four years in college were four truly wonderful years. It's true what they say about college. You learn a lot more than what you learn in class, and sometimes the most important things are what you learn about yourself outside of class. I have many fond memories of my college life, and I often wonder what happened to all of those people. Mike and I kept in touch for a while, but something happened (I'm still not sure what). Stacey (the married woman) and her family actually moved up to Chicago after I did and we went out for drinks a few times. I got along well with her husband, even talking to him for 45 minutes one time when I called and she wasn't there. But she just disappeared one day. I think I know where she is now, but I'm not sure if it's the same person, so I haven't tried to contact her.

So what did I learn about myself? That while I wasn't completely in a shell anymore, I was still extremely shy, but that I could work myself out of it if I had to, at least enough to function in society. I learned a lot of things about love and friendship, some by observing and some by first-hand experience. And finally, I learned how ephemeral relationships can be. Life is full of stages, and some people are truly important during those stages, but they fall by the wayside once that stage is over. If the friendship is strong enough, it will evolve and stick around even when you've moved on, but many of them are just for that time period. I will always treasure these people, I will often wonder where they are (I've called them out a couple of times on various blog entries, but unlike a couple of my high school friends, they've never found the post or responded to it if they did). They were important people to my life back then, and they are definitely important to how I came out of college. For that, I thank them.


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