My first humiliating college experience happened at New Student Orientation. Surprisingly so, it wasn’t the fact that I shared a story about a crazy man pooping on a public bus- that bit actually won over my now-best-friend-of-8-years. Who wouldn’t want to be my friend? Potty humor and insensitivity are where it’s at. The warranted embarrassment occurred during the night time orientation programming, just as the fun was getting started I had to go to the bathroom. So I did what any honor society student in transition would do – I went up to an Orientation Leader and asked “Can I go to the bathroom?”
The lights went dim and a spotlight illuminated my terry cloth sweatsuit clad body (the perfect uniform to announce my Long Isand-ness, Tiffany bracelets finished off the look). The light switched focus to the Orientation Leader who I had approached, the petite blonde with campus catalog model looks and a pep in her step gave me a look of disgust.
The MC announced: “Ladies and gentlemen did you hear that? Little Miss Rules wants PERMISSION to go to the bathroom!” to the room filled with my Class of 2007 peers. A unified gasp came from the crowd of co-eds, “Aw wittle baby fweshman wants her mommy to take her to go pee-pee. Listen goody-two-shoes, you better tough it up or you aint NEVER going to make it at college,” the Orientation Leader quipped. The crowd erupted in laughter, everyone’s eyes were cartoons bozoinging in my face, all 14 of the OL’s danced in a circle around me screaming, “Boo hoo hoo.” Clawd. Z Eagle (our campus mascot) showed up and started squawking in my face. Ruben Studdard was there too because it was 2003 and he had just won American Idol. “LOSEEEEEEEEEEEEER” he bellowed while two-stepping with the Eagle.
In actuality she said, “This is college, you don’t have to ask permission to go to the bathroom.” My face turned bright red and I shamefully went to the restroom – little did I know she had given me a gift, a heads up, that first indication that college is where you are truly free. The only restriction you have is the option on your meal plan (Trust me, you don’t NEED the unlimited.)
I went on to become an Orientation Leader the following summer and loved it so much that I did it twice. Whenever I have my regularly scheduled 20-something-“What am I doing with my life”-breakdown, I think of going into student affairs. This is partially because you will cherish your college experiences forever and continually long for them well into your 20’s (hard hitting truth #2) but also because I want to protect and hug every little me who is starting college and looking for some guidance.
To satisfy this urge, I present to you 10 Things You Have My Permission To Do In College:
1) Wear one item of clothing over and over again. This will make your life real easy; when you have so many other decisions to make sometimes you have to give yourself a free pass in other areas of life. If anyone asks, you’re developing a “signature” style.
2) Give nicknames to everyone on campus. Talking about Jason is far less fun than talking about “Captain Crunch” aka that boy Jason from your floor who always eats Captain Crunch in the cafeteria. No need for nicknames to be super clever, that being said I encourage experience based ones over observation ones. “Peep Show J.” is far funnier than “Captain Crunch” and it’s fun to constantly reminisce about that one time Jason accidentally flashed you on his way to the shower. Or combine the two and call him “Captain Peep Show” for an all encompassing experience. Warning: if you are drinking around Jason you will call him “Captain Peep Show” to his face. Explaining this will be awkward.
3) Give up on that crush the 2nd time they make you feel shitty about yourself- “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” knows what it’s talking about. Come to terms with the fact that you may ignore following this advice. Because you inevitably will ignore it when your friends tell you the same thing. I think I gave up after time #16. (Honor Society Types are also super ambitious!)
4) Continue to let your parents bring tampons and toothpaste in bulk when they visit. Sure you have the campus store and a shuttle to CVS but what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Be thankful that parents consider college campuses to be desolate entities where no one has access to hygiene products and Easter candy. Take a second of your day to shoot them a “thank you” gchat- yes, college is when you start instant messaging your parents.
5) Rent your textbooks from the library. Do this ahead of time and if they don’t have the book at your library look into borrowing from another nearby campus. Use your campus cash for important things like hoodies and late night snacks.
6) Try out new friends. Some will stick, some won’t. You will eat lunch with someone every day the first week of college and then realize that your friend chemistry just isn’t there. You will always say hi to each other for the next 4 years and maintain a healthy Facebook friendship. It’s a mutual understanding that when you say “Happy Birthday!” you really mean “Thanks for being my only friend during Welcome Week and making me realize I need someone who is more on my level of not having her shit together to get through these 4 years. You’re super nice though! You’ll probably have a double major, nice boyfriend who wears polos and internship by sophomore year! I need someone who will chant my name during a keg stand and stay up all night in the lounge playing “do, dump, marry” while we don’t study for finals. Okay gotta run, it’s Tuesday night and the frat house gets pretty packed by 11!”
7) Eat Chinese food every Friday night. There comes a time in every one’s life when you no longer can eat General Tso’s without an accompanying digestive aide, enjoy it while you can.
8 ) Call your parents on the verge of tears because you are so homesick. When they say hello you probably won’t respond because if you start speaking you’ll break into a hiccupping-heaving-hysterical wreck. “Hello? Jaci?? Jaci?” They’ll eventually get used to this; if you have too much pride to admit to being homesick just lie and give the old “AT&T sucks! They always drop my calls!” excuse. *I just gifted you with another valuable life lesson- a lie for all seasons and reasons.
9) Never buy plastic drinking cups and gym t-shirts again. You can get them for free at every booth you visit during the activities fair and if you go Greek you’ll get them in bulk, Costco style.
10) Don’t wait around for someone to give you permission to do things you want to do. Sadly, I won’t be there along the way to give you all of my wisdom. And the reality is no one but you is going to give you approval to take a chance, to mess things up, to get of your own way, to thicken your skin, to shed some layers, to speak up, to listen closely, to connect, to learn, to grow, to give in, to take chances, to experience college in a way that will make you miss it so much that four years later when you’re 26, you’ll have a night where you drink too much tequila at a party, start longing for the good old days and sob like a lunatic during the cab ride home while calling that same person who enjoyed your poop story so many years ago. Only you can give yourself that gift- so remember this: own your life.
It’s a blessing to be able to go out and do what you want to do, say what you want to say and pee when you have to pee. Such ownership is a privilege- and taking pride in your character and decisions is the most you can do to respect that. Note that I referred to the bathroom incident as my first humiliating college experience, there are many more colorful tales that followed. And the clarity from such occasions is never going to come the minute after it happens- some life lessons aren’t as easy as don’t split a bottle of vodka with your two best friends. When they are that easy- please DO pay attention to them. But when they aren’t, just wait it out, you’ll get there and remember: at least you’re not a crazy man shitting on the public bus.
by Jaci Pulice
Campus Sign On The Steel Rails via Shutterstock