September, 1991. Silence sat heavily in the car as my parents and I drove along the 401. We were completely preoccupied with our destination and every attempt at conversation was stunted to three or four sentences. For my own part, an internal battle between fear and excitement, apprehension and exhilaration prevented me from engaging my parents. Being a parent now, I can only imagine the inner turmoil that my mother and father were going though. You see, we were travelling towards Kingston, Ontario, Queen’s University. I was about to enter first year university and each kilometer that rolled beneath our feet brought us closer to the beginning of a whole new chapter in our lives.
Every now and then, my mother would see a sign hanging down from an overpass that crossed the highway (SAY GOOD BYE TO YOUR PARENTS, FROSH! YOU ARE OURS NOW!) and say, “There’s another one, honey. This is it.” I had seen the same signs two years previous when we made the same journey with my brother. However, this time the words seemed bolder, and were filled with much more meaning. This was it. In a few short hours, I would be on my own. The struggle in my gut grew stronger.
We rolled up to Victoria Hall, my new home for the next year, and were greeted by upper year students who taunted me and berated me with insults and threats. The scene was far less intimidating than it had been when my brother was a frosh. Political correctness ruled the school and juniors were no longer permitted to haze us as they once did. I must admit, I was disappointed not to have been told to get to my knees and then squirted by Super Soakers filled with purple dye. All the same, it was enough excitement to wipe the nervousness clear from my psyche. I was ready!
We had arrived pretty early in the morning and the halls were still rather empty thus making it easy to navigate the narrow corridors with a cart full of student supplies – books, clothes, a computer, a mini fridge, a microwave, and two cases of mini ravioli. (Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, how I loved thee!) When we arrived at my dorm room, a cozy, boxed sized single, I was amazed at how huge it all seemed. Not so much the room itself but what it represented. Freedom.
None of us were in the mood to unpack my room so we simply dumped my belongings on the bed and left to explore the city. I can’t recall how we spent the rest of the morning, afternoon and evening. I just remember stepping into Birthday’s, a local pub, with my parents and brother (He had arrived in Queen’s a few days earlier because he was a floor senior at Victoria Hall.) for a final toast before my folks headed back home. That was the plan anyways.
By the end of our first glass we had only really started to converse and felt that ‘just one more’ was necessary before we could say our good-byes. My dad, who was driving, was smart enough to call it quits after we demolished our second round. My brother, mother and I, on the other hand, were pretty sure that a third pint might be in order. The party didn’t stop there.
I think I was about half way through my fifth pint of Rickard’s Red when I began ‘schooling’ my father about how to properly pick up university women. I, having been a part of the university scene for approximately eight hours, was obviously a seasoned professional. I’m not quite sure how the conversation played out, but I do recollect finishing ‘just one more’ and walking up to a couple of women (I’d like to say they were attractive, but who really knows.) and showing my dad how it was done. Crashing and burning that is. And that’s where the night ended for me.
The next thing I knew, the morning sun was shining brightly in my eyes. Somehow I was back in my residence room curled up around a bag of clothes. My head was pounding and my mouth felt as though I had been sucking on a heater all night. When I finally caught up with my brother later that evening he was less than impressed with me. Apparently I had snuck out of the bar without telling anyone and must have stumbled my way back to Victoria Hall. He and my parents had spent the better part of an hour searching for me before tracking me down to my dorm room. Oops. I, on the other hand was pretty impressed with myself. Although I still had a long way to go with the ladies, at least I would be able to stagger home from just about anywhere in the downtown area. I was definitely ready for university life.
I’m Free, by the Soup Dragons, takes me back to my first year university. It was here that I got my first taste of real freedom. I was in control — 100%. Fortunately/Unfortunately (I can’t decide which is fits better) I was drunk off of this sudden sense of independence for most of my first year. This led to some costly mistakes, some wild adventures and a number of stories that are left yet to be told. Nevertheless everything that happened was as a result of choices that I made. If I had the chance again, would I do it all the same? Judging by the way I lived my life… yea. Absolutely. And based on where I am now, I’m not that upset about it.
I’m Free youtube link