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A freshman embarks on college

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It’s parent’s weekend and I hope you’re settling in nicely.

I remember the thing that immediately struck me about college was that it smelled different than what I was used to — not like high school, home or anything familiar. When I entered my dorm for the first time, same thing. I didn’t know if it was fresh paint or just what learnin’ smelled like but eventually I got used to it, as I assume and hope you’re doing. Take a deep breath and don’t fight it because you’ll be smelling it for four years and hopefully not five.

As has been punctuated this week, being a freshman in college can be an impossible task and what’s first thought to be a simple prank can alter the lives of everyone involved. Technology only adds more opportunity to make costly errors in judgment so keep a close eye on all that you do because every word, tweet, post or text could jeopardize your future or that of those around you. When your confirmation hearings on Capital Hill turn ugly and you’re suddenly not the next Supreme Court justice, don’t be surprised if your political opposition has entered into evidence an irresponsible Twitter post — or a photo of you passed out with embarrassing comments written on your face in Sharpie that’s ended up on the Facebook page of a friend of a friend of a friend. BE CAREFUL. When in doubt, don’t do it and try not to find yourself in that position.

My college days were of a simpler time — no internet, cell phones or cable TV. I learned that most of this smell I referred to earlier was indeed fresh paint, along with an aroma of cleaning solutions associated with the dispersal of the previous semester’s keg party vomit. The summer before sophomore year, I took a work study job painting dorms and I’m telling you that puke not only stains, it isn’t easily painted over. Let this be your first lesson.


Second lesson: If you’re going to drink, sip quality and less of it. Try less to be the boozer everyone talks about at reunions every five years — last thing you want are stories you’re not aware of but they’re about you and what you did — and more the person others wish they could be. And keep an eye on your beverage.

Your roommate. Probably just as important as everything else. The higher powers or lottery balls which brought you together may have matched you with a dud or someone you’ll be tight friends with forever. Interacting with others is key to living a full and rich life and, good or bad, a roommate is someone you’ll never forget. Much of college is designed to offer you a set of situations so you’ll learn to make decisions, work with others and base your choices on a higher level of discretion. The least of this is what you’ll learn in the classroom.

How you interact now, finally on your own, is a reflection of your parents. You mess up — and it’s gonna happen — don’t sweat it. This is also a part of life. Einstein** said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Did this stop him from getting the shits after Thursday’s half-price appletini and free taco happy hour? No, that would happen to anybody. But next Thursday, where’s Albert? Learn from mistakes and be a stronger person for doing so, it’s what your parents would hope you’d do. You are what they made you to be so do them proud because they’re proud of you.

My first roommate stunk, literally, so much so that the room smelled and by the third month I could no longer sleep there. I’d hold my breath to get my things and bolted out, it was that bad. If something isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to change it. If it’s a roommate problem, address it.

Just never get a single room. We were always in doubles and dreamed of one day having a single. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized everyone I knew who had a single was a complete and total psychopath — clinical and you knew it then. THIS WAS WHY THEY WERE IN SINGLES. This was for our protection. Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy had singles. There isn’t a major news story about a guy living alone in a cabin and dreaming of blowing up the Santa Monica Pier where I don’t first wonder if he looks like someone I may have gone to school with.

Studying late one night, I asked one of these freaks if he had something to keep me awake. I fully assumed any of them would have an illicit substance that would do the trick and carefully selected the most Unabomber of the bunch. Without flinching, this particularly suspect colleague said he had just the thing, went back to his single and returned with something in his hand. He proceeded to dangle a tea bag between his outstretched thumb and forefinger.

I asked what to do with it. “Do I smoke it, snort it, cook it up on a spoon and load a syringe?” I had no idea what this batshit crazy ass was suggesting. He told me to boil some water and steep the bag, then drink the tea. This guy was so out there, he was able to play the sane card on me.

Don’t immediately judge people. And buy your own tea bags. They’re cheap and you never know where someone else’s have been.

If it hasn’t been done already, releasing a sex tape should be taken off your consideration list, no matter how hot the other person is. It will not make you an instant celebrity and most people will think you have a venereal disease. I know there’s no factual association between the two but name me one celebrity who’s made a sex tape who you think might not have one. I thought so.

Don’t let anyone take naked pictures of you and if you snap a few of someone you’re with, don’t text them to friends or use them to trash your ex when you break up. Have some class and dream bigger. Never underestimate the tremendous value of nude cell phone photos or Flip video. Tuck those away for leverage you’ll benefit from later. Now reverse all that and realize the power of what you’re handing someone.

Even though we weren’t in college with today’s technology, it’s easy to visualize the progression of what got us here. One blurry weekend, a friend hit it off with a girl he just met and before you knew it, they were having sex. Because the curtain was up and IT WAS MY ROOM, we all watched from outside the window. We felt entitled. I did mention that it was MY room, right? Also that we didn’t have internet, cell phones or cable TV? I talked to him a few months ago and this episode came up. He suggested that in this day and age something like that would be broadcast all over the internet somehow. Is there any doubt? If not us (his friends!!), anyone else walking by??

So welcome to college. Keep your pants on, don’t be an idiot or make the same mistakes twice. Embrace these days. Fill your head with knowledge and enjoy the friendships you’re about to make and all the new smells. Call anytime if you need anything. If you need money, I don’t know you.

**Quote is also attributed to Ben Franklin but first appeared in print in the 1983 book “Sudden Death” by Rita Mae Brown.” Between the three, Franklin most likely would have been best prepared to battle incontinence brought on by appletinis and free tacos.

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