Friday, December 25, 2009

25 California Here I Come

I arrived on campus several days before the school year started and immediately began working for the enrollment office. As is too often my tendency, I walked into the place like I owned it, confident that everything was going to be fantastic and a success. Because I was working in the office that was running registration, it felt like I was back at academy again helping make things happen. This transition appeared so seamless to me that I didn’t do a good job of stepping back and taking in the new adventure. I did take in the beauty of it all. The pine trees and ever greens all over campus were just stunning. The rolling hills were a whole new challenge to someone who had always lived in flat areas.
But I did immediately concern myself with creating my social life making some very sharp friends. I had been accepted into the honors program in its newly formatted method. It was a “great texts” approach where each class revolved around a theme like “Heroes” and we studied great texts like the Odyssey or the story of King David. The classes would be discussion based and the tests idea based. This group met before registration because the full list of who would be accepted hadn’t been formed. I was really hoping to be accepted because the foreign language requirement was going to be Koine (Biblical) Greek and so I could double dip that with my theology degree. Because apparently, the chair of the PE department had missed the final meeting when designing the program, the program also had no PE requirement.( This and the extremely good food at the school cafeteria ensured that I put on over 25 pounds in first two years of college.) Appropriately enough as we discussed the way the program would work using the Greek Language and reading Plato, I met two Greek girls who quickly grabbed my attention.
The first was Shelly, still one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She had scored a perfect score on her SAT. She was a short quirky blond girl who was immediately suspicious of personalities like mine. During one of, if not the first, conversation she immediately stated and said that someone who was working as hard as I was at meeting people had something wrong with them or was hiding something. Carrying her refrigerator to her dorm room for her somehow increased her suspicion and she quickly told me so. In time, I semi won her over and we became friends. She had a boyfriend back in LA and I had Shannon and we spent much time talking about the nature of a long distance relationship and how to balance that with entering college. She was incredibly honest about everything, telling me how she was judging people and probing topics I’d never really discussed with anyone. She was also a psychology major so I saw her in both honors and program classes. She was bothered by how shallow and superficial guys were in regards to sex and asked me about a conversation she’d had with several guys where they all said they wanted to have a threesome while in college. I’d never honestly knew what it was before then, and when she explained it to me I was completely appalled. Anytime anything shocked her or bothered her, she would ask if I would do something like that. If I agreed with her position, she’d give me an approving smile; if I disagreed, I earned a cute but very stern squint and glare and reminder that this is why she was wary of people with my personality. Though I am sure she was not the first to do so, she would be the first to articulate that people with persona’s like mine should be questioned. This questioning extended to religion and the church essentially her argument coming down to that things with a lot of flash often didn’t have much substance.
The second Greek girl was Natalia, an absolutely stunningly beautiful girl. She had that exotic Mediterranean look and was the kind of girl who was so good looking that when she walked in the room everyone noticed. You’d get better service in restaurants when she was with you. Her father had been a pastor who had a falling out with the church but still tried to minister in his own way. She spoke of God incredibly elegantly and yet personally. She didn’t really fit my mold of a good Adventist almost always wearing very trendy fashionable clothes, lots of jewelry, and clearly put in excessive time into her hair and makeup. I did then as I do now put her in the box that says that girls who put that much effort into their looks can’t have much beneath the make up, in effect making Shelly’s argument about my personality into her looks. Natalie did not fit that mold though but was actually intelligent, deep and emotional. She was always trying to encourage me to be more honest about my emotions and to allow myself to feel them and not dismiss them as is my usual habit. She took this even into church where she was all but dancing during praise music. Feeling her way through life, she wanted her emotions to guide her through relationships, faith, and even intellectual exercises. We played chess on occasion and she appeared to even want to feel her way through those games.
I saw and talked with these two girls on an almost daily basis and they had such different approaches to their view of the world, one was suspicious of the flash, one really flashy. They were fascinating in their own ways and approaches. And like everyone else in the honors program, they were ambitious and very intelligent.
The only problem with getting into the Honors Program was that it was creating an insular college experience. I missed out on actual general education and on PE, on meeting people who were in a variety of degrees or thoughts. Obviously, I still met them because it was college and there were activities but the lion’s share of my classes was going to be 1) people trying to be pastors 2) people studying psychology or 3) people trying to graduate with honors. If there’s anyone who thinks that any of those three groups do a good job of representing humanity, I have a piece of real estate on another planet that I would like to sell them at incredible discount. All of this could possibly be relieved had I lived in one of the two main men’s dorms, Grainger or Newton. These dorms were a stone’s throw, a moment away from the cafeteria, the classrooms, the student center, life as we knew it. But somehow I had been encouraged to apply to go into Nichol. Nichol was a dorm that was 200 yards and up an 80 yard hill from everything else on campus. The nearest building was a good 10 minute walk and getting to campus proper was 15 minutes. It was a very quiet dorm on the back lot of campus. This isolation and this approach that I “had arrived” shortly after I had actually arrived was helping me miss interacting with reality at a time where I was actually thinking about it. I was trying to figure out humanity but having contact with a very limited type of people. Well, at least I was a psychology major that should teach me everything I need to know about humans.

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