The Collegian
Monday, June 01, 2020

A Retrospective essay

The shuffle on my iPod can predict the future. How's that for an opening hook?

It all started way back in 2005, my freshman year of college. The morning before move-in day. I was barreling down I-95 to start my first semester here in Richmond. The trunk and backseat were cracking at the seams, packed full of suitcases, DVD stacks and an old acoustic guitar (my primary means of unsuccessfully picking up girls).

I'd forgotten to burn any CDs, which left the musical burden to my iPod. Not wanting to spend the drive skipping around my playlists, I spun the wheel over to shuffle and let the ghost in the machine do the rest. And what do you know, first song: "The Freshman," by the Verve Pipe. A little cheesy, sure. But poignant for certain.

I still remember that song, that drive, four years later. The very beginning of this strange little time in our lives we call, "College" The feeling of it was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before -- for the first time in my life I was entering a situation without any type of preparation or control.

I didn't know whom I would meet, didn't know what living on my own would be like, didn't know the city or the people or even what my major would be (it would take another three years for that one, now that I think about it). The inescapable feeling of simply not knowing, of living on the edge, just waiting to see what happens next. Exciting times.

And now, in the blink of an eye, there are only four weeks left. That's right, seniors. Four. Weeks. Left.

To tell the truth it still hasn't hit me. But then again, I'm very good at denial (I've completely repressed the memory of ever watching the fourth Indiana Jones movie). But regardless, graduation's on the way.

This is my last column as your assistant opinion editor. As such, I thought for a while about what I should make this finale focus on.

Perhaps something about how much this school has changed since those first days of my freshman year? Nah, I'd probably get too bogged down in fuming about old D-Hall. Underclassmen--if only you knew the horror we endured for your sake.

Or maybe a column about how the new Facebook design makes me confused and scared. Remember back when your profile only had one picture and wall posts were just a bunch of anonymous text that anybody could go in and edit? Those were the days. Also, only college kids were allowed. Now I'm getting friend requests from my mom.

Or I could just talk randomly about how I'm terrible at navigating people around this campus when they stop and ask me for directions. Last week this one guy was looking for the Alumni Center and the best I could do was tell him to "drive around the big loop with the awkwardly placed benches, past that parking lot that's always full and then go up." I'm pretty sure I accidentally directed him to Charlottesville.

But as I was running through these ideas, low and behold, the answer came to me in the most serendipitous of places. That's right, the iPod shuffle.

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It was a song called "I Love College." Now, I'm not sure if you guys have heard this one. I don't even know the band's name, to be honest, but it is a cheesy, cheesy song. Pandering beer pong references and a chorus that chants "Fresh-man, fresh-man" are just some of the cringe-inducing moments. But the whole thing flows over this subtle bass and steady rhythm, with just enough electric guitar to give it the definitive touch of nostalgia.

And just like that, my iPod shuffle once again predicted the future. I was to write about how much I love college.

And it's true. Sure, you've maybe read my weekly rants in these pages about all the things that suck here at the University of Richmond: The archaic rules, rigid social scene enforcement and those spiky bushes by the lake.

But the silver lining is there, and it has been since that first move-in day. College has been, for all of us, a complete fulfillment of youth. In high school we all woke up at 6 a.m. and went to class for seven straight hours of hell. Think about how much has changed here! Two, maybe three classes a day, plenty of free time to just sit back and relax in the warm Virginian air, and a hell of a lot less frivolous busy work.

College is the chance to have the time and the freedom to explore, venture out into the wilderness and figure out who you are and what you want to do. What's fun, what excites you, what makes the hours carousel like wheels on I-95.

And don't forget about the parties. Oh, those parties.

Perhaps that's why, without even realizing it, the whole thing went by so quickly. High school felt like a decade. I feel like I haven't been here in Richmond for more than a month-and-a-half.

In my first column earlier this semester I talked about the Sunday Morning Sillies. That feeling you get when you wake up on a Sunday morning still kind of drunk, still kind of silly and everything around you is funny and nice. And you know the hangover's coming eventually, but it's not important. Only the moment at hand matters.

And for as incoherent as that first column was, I feel it has particular relevance for what I want to say in this last one. Call it coming around full circle. Because yes, college has been a silly, goofy time in our lives. We've seen the world through eyes we never thought we would, done things just for the sake of the story, explored and ventured forth. And for us seniors, graduation may feel like the rapidly approaching hangover.

But I dare all of you to not look at it like that. Instead, if you will, recall that first drive to school for move-in day. That exciting feeling of not knowing what's next. The joy in anticipation, the revel in the unknown. Life on the edge. Let us not forget that feeling.

It's like that last scene in "Dazed and Confused," another meditation on the last day of school, when Floyd and Slater and Wooderson barrel down to Texas in search of Aerosmith tickets, not knowing for certain what's coming.

And to all those freshmen, sophomores and juniors out there: Take heed. Time here passes quickly. Every hour is fleeting, no matter how long it feels like it takes to get through that 9:45 on Tuesdays. Grab hold of the moments you have, even the quiet ones, sitting outside under the sun reading a book or listening to your iPod. Take time to register it, relish in it and breathe it all in as slowly and deliberately as possible. Because even if it all goes by too quickly, at least you'll have some great little memories.

And as I close out this last piece, what do you know, the iPod shuffle does it again. I think I hear it in the background playing "Slow Ride," the closing song in "Dazed and Confused." So I'll leave you with some words of advice from a character in that movie much smarter than me. In the eternal words of that loveable sleazeball Wooderson, "You just gotta keep on livin', man. L-I-V-I-N."

Now get out there and start your weekend.

Contact assistant Opinion Editor Michael Gaynor at michael.gaynor@richmond.edu

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