There are some days that people remember for the rest of their life. For me, April 17, 2013, is that day. I don’t think many people think about the past as much as I do, but I think reflecting on the past is important…or at least that’s what I tell myself. That is why this post will not be dedicated to sports but, rather, my University experience and my friends that have, ultimately, become family.
University was the best four years of my life, so far. How did I get there? Let me take you back to March 2008. At the time, I was in Grade 11 and was content with the fact that I was probably going to end up at Ryerson University for the Radio & Television program. I really enjoyed my Grade 11 media course and thought this would be a backdoor way into the sports industry. Then I realized I should probably apply somewhere else too, just in case. Remember, I was still in Grade 11. I had a lot of time. Then, it happened.
I live with the mindset that the right thing will eventually come along. And when it does, I’ll know. I think that mindset was born from the following…
I was sitting at my computer one day during March Break in 2008. I was staring at Google and it was staring into my soul. What do I love? What are my favourite subjects? My answer was, sports, but it wasn’t a subject, or was it? I remember a lot of things, but I can’t remember what the exact search term was that I entered into Google. However, it was something along the lines of “sports program in University.” Against all odds, I found the Sport Management program at Brock University. I read the program description and wondered how a few lines could define me so perfectly. My Mom was downstairs vacuuming at the time. I ran downstairs, told her to stop, and to go upstairs with me. I didn’t say anything. I told her to sit in my chair and read what was on the screen. She said, “Wow, Paul! This is you!” I’ll never forget that. Then I asked her if it was too far away. (I had already Google Mapped the distance from my house to Brock and it was about 1.5-2 hours away). She said it wasn’t too far. And that’s the moment I decided I wanted to go to Brock University for Sport Management. I guess I never got to experience the whole “deciding where you want to go to University is a tough decision” part of life.
Going into First Year, I don’t remember being that nervous. I only knew one other person coming to Brock with me, but we weren’t that close. Basically, I knew no one. I kinda liked it that way. I lived in residence on the non-alcoholic floor – not because I was too young, but because I don’t drink. I don’t care if it’s the “unpopular” thing to do, it’s who I am. Looking back, I probably wasn’t as outgoing as I should have been in First Year. I had my small group of friends, but by the end of April, I hadn’t really lived a whole lot of the University experience. I felt like I was missing out on something, but didn’t know what.
I decided to return to residence for my Second Year. Honestly, this will be the best decision I will ever make in my life. Apologies to my future wife, you’ll have to live with “second best decision.”
During the summer, I worked at a Day Camp with little kids, age 4-5. I knew I had to get a job, but I never considered a camp job. It was an opportunity that came out of nowhere and worked out perfectly. Again, my mindset of “the right thing will eventually come along” was proven to be right. I grew up a lot that summer and had a lot of fun in the process. You learn a lot about yourself when you have to take care of young children. I had the roughest first day a Camp Counsellor could have. I remember staring into the mirror in the washroom at camp and saying to myself “If you can get through this day, you can get through anything.” Then, I quickly looked under the stall doors to see if anyone else was in there and had heard me talking to myself. No one was there, just toilets that hadn’t been flushed.
Going into Second Year, I wanted to be a mentor to the First Year students on my floor. That was my goal – to share my knowledge of the school and what to expect. I had a great Don (leader of the floor) in first year who taught me many things and I wanted to “pay it forward” so to speak. After four days, I hadn’t really met anyone on the floor because I had spent the week catching up with friends from the previous school year. It already seemed like everyone was bonding and I felt left out. It was my own fault. The Friday night of Orientation Week, around dinner time, I got a knock on my door. It was a group of guys inviting me to dinner. Again, another moment I’ll never forget. To me, the small things matter. Small, simple gestures like that, make a difference. That was the beginning of a wonderful eight months and many lifelong friendships. Crazy.
Our floor name was the Sheaffe Hall Titans. There were 50 people on the floor, but about 10 people decided to stay in their room more often than hang out with the rest of us. I said it at the time and I’ll say it again, all of us were almost too comfortable around each other. We instantly became a big family and didn’t treat each other like people we had just met. It was a weird dynamic, but it worked. We were a bunch of people who weren’t afraid to be ourselves. Going to dinner with a mob of 20 people was the norm. We were the Titans and we stuck together.
Most of my closest friends in this world lived on that floor. If I didn’t return to residence for my Second Year, I would not have met them. I wouldn’t even need a cell phone right now because there really isn’t anyone else that I talk to on a regular basis. That isn’t an exaggeration; that is the truth.
When the school year came to an end and everyone was moving out, it was pretty sad. That’s the hardest part about University. You have all these friends for eight months and then you don’t see them for four months. You revert back to your “old friends.” I’ll be honest, I cried in my room after some people left. I was shocked that there were tears coming from my eyes. I hadn’t cried in a long time, maybe a couple of years. Yet, here I was, sad, that people I knew for eight months, were leaving. What the hell was wrong with me?
I returned to residence for my Third Year and was hoping that the people living on my floor could live up to the excellence of the previous year. At the first hall meeting, I looked around the room and got the impression that things were going to be different. And they were. I became good friends with some people, but not as many as in my Second Year. This floor was a bit more tentative and a lot more nervous. The friends I made on this floor have become friends with the people I lived with in Second Year. This makes life a lot easier for me. Many people have different groups of friends. I have one group. All of my friends know each other. I’m a friendship matchmaker and didn’t even know it. Perfect, I wonder how much that pays.
And finally, here it is, Fourth Year. Honestly, these eight months went by too quickly. It is all a blur. I tried to savour every moment, as much as I could, because I knew that it would all be taken away from me eventually. In my final year, I received the highest marks I had gotten in four years. Ever since I was in elementary school, I thought that school gets harder as you go along. I realized I was wrong. School doesn’t get harder; it gets easier.
Writing essays aren’t that difficult if you know what you want to say. Any time I have to write something, no matter how long, I say to myself: “There are millions of words to choose from…you can say anything you want…just pick the right words.” Sure, it sounds silly when I type it out, but that is what runs through my head. People have said that I am clever and witty. I think everyone can be clever and witty. All you have to do is put words in the correct order. At it’s core, that is what writing is all about it – the ability to put words in an order that makes what you say meaningful or provoke a reaction out of someone. That’s all it is.
This brings me back to the beginning of the post and April 17, 2013. This day marked the end of my career as a student. I left the examination room for the final time and I felt invincible. If you haven’t finished University yet, you might not understand. But as I walked back to my room in residence, it felt like the whole world around me had stopped and I was the only one moving. I have never experienced something like that before. The phrase “a weight lifted off my shoulders” is overused, but that is exactly how I felt. I felt free. I was proud of myself. I did it. It was over. I didn’t want it to be over, though.
Throughout the entire day, I was meeting with as many people as I could and saying goodbye. It was one of the hardest days of my life. Almost all of my close friends were not graduating with me in June. They still have one or two more years before they can worry about not falling on graduation day. That was the hardest part – knowing that they would all return in September and I wouldn’t. I gave my final hugs, said my goodbyes, and walked around campus at 2AM with tears in my eyes. Oh yeah, I still had to pack everything and be moved out of residence in 10 hours. Life isn’t fair sometimes; this was one of those times.
The next morning, I went to the North Service Desk to check-out of residence. I had a nice, brief conversation with the lady there. I have passed by this desk hundreds of times in four years and have never seen her there once. I don’t believe in coincidences. She asked me what my plans for the summer were. I told her I was graduating and that I would probably be looking for a career, as opposed to a job – there is a difference. She was really nice and said something to me that will stick with me forever. She said, “Good luck, I can see something really good for you in your future.” Did she have a crystal ball under her desk? Or maybe her crystal ball was broken and was at the shop getting repaired and she was just free-wheeling it. I don’t know. But she made me feel good about myself and gave me hope that if I keep doing what I’m doing, that once again, the right thing will come along. I don’t know what greater power put her there, but she told me exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. The small things matter…
At this point, I realize this post is long, but there is more I need to say. I’d like to dedicate this next part to seven people. Instead of using their name, I will use nicknames. I consider these seven people to be my closest friends that I made at University. They are the people that I stay in contact with the most. If I were going to war, they would be the first seven people I call. No wait, correct that – they would be the seven people I send a mass text to because you can’t call seven people at the same time. Darn technicalities.
I have two best friends in this world, J. Trixx is one of them. I met her, yes her, in my Second Year in residence – she lived across the hall from me. Truth be told, and I’ve told her this before, I thought she was annoying and obnoxious at first. Then, one day we started talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs and everything seemed to change. We have a really strange friendship that, I think, only we understand. We are complete opposites and disagree on almost everything. But, there has always been a brother-sister bond that erases all the disagreements. Oh, and we have telepathy. I saw a tweet on Twitter the other day that said “You don’t really know someone until you text each other at 3AM.” It’s true. We pulled an all-nighter one time when we both had to write the same essay for our Ancient Sport class. We sent each other so many angry texts that night because we both hated what we had to write about. The constant texting also kept us awake. That’s what friends do. We promised each other that we’d always be 100% honest with each other and we have been. Conversations I don’t normally have with other people, we have had. The ability to have a conversation and say anything, no matter how harsh or brutally honest, is what has made us best friends. Saying goodbye on the last day was hard and I don’t think either of us will forget that moment.
After she left, everything started to sink in and I still had more people to see. I was booked like a Doctor’s office that day. I sent out a tweet that said “Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard.” Thank you song lyrics for giving me words that day because I couldn’t find any on my own.
This is the first person I ever met in my program back in First Year. We have done so many group projects with each other, it’s ridiculous. He doesn’t remember this story, but I do because I remember stuff like this. We met during the first week of school during our faculty orientation. We were sitting in the same row and they told us to raise our hand if we were in Sport Management. Well, we were in a row of about 5 seats. Mr. SPMA was on the right aisle seat. My roommate was about two seats to the left of him. I was to the immediate left of my roommate. My roommate turned to me and said there was a guy in SPMA at the end of our row. My roommate tapped him on the shoulder and that is when me and Mr. SPMA met. We got along great right away because we started talking about sports. Sports is a universal topic. If two people love sports, they will be friends. Guaranteed. Oh I forgot to mention, my roommate, who pointed Mr. SPMA out to me, he became friends and eventual housemates with Mr. SPMA in later years. They didn’t know that they inadvertently met during the first week of First Year. Small, strange, world we live in. This plays to my theory that there are no coincidences in life.
Henrietta is the funniest person I’ve ever met and loves life more than the average bear. I like to make fun of people a lot, but I have one rule when I do it. I’m only allowed to make fun of people who are close friends of mine. That way, they know I’m kidding and I won’t get beat up for making jokes about them. Well, she knows I’m kidding, I hope (HENRIETTA, IM KIDDING), and yet, she still beats me up anyways. I guess that’s how I know she cares. If she hated me, she wouldn’t yell at me via text message or punch me whenever she got the opportunity. Speaking of text messages, if someone read our conversations, they would probably send us back to Grade 4. We insult each other and write in all caps; it’s pretty funny. We also tell each other stupid stories and taunt the other with pictures of delicious food. Like I said, we’re children. But I know that beneath all the jokes, insults, and stolen phones (that’s a story for another day), that we have each other’s back – and that’s all that matters.
I met Loud Speaker in Second Year on my floor in residence. I have deduced that we are basically the same person, but different – he is much louder. You know how old ladies ring a bell to alert people that it’s dinner time? Well that is basically what Loud Speaker did every day in residence, but without the bell. Instead, he used his voice and created the Food Call. The Food Call is a sacred act that involves one person walking down a long hallway saying: “FOOD, FOOD, FOOD.” This act summons hungry people from their rooms and unites everyone at the end of the hall so they can march to dinner. It was very effective. Loud Speaker is also a sports fan and likes to attend buffets. We understand that food, sports, and sleep come before everything else. As members of the Mannerhood, we follow the bro code, which guides our friendship. Oh, and we think we should have our own sports talk show. If anyone reading this right now can help us live that dream, help us out. One more thing, we share a hate for Nickelback songs that come on the radio at 2AM. That is not “fall asleep” music. That is pain for the ears. That is all.
Far Stairwell No Key
I met Far Stairwell No Key during my Second Year in residence. She didn’t live on the 3rd floor; she lived on the 4th floor. Her instincts quickly set in and she realized that the 4th floor was not her home; our floor was her home. So, she frequently took the stairway to heaven (only time heaven is going down) and came to be a part of our floor. Far Stairwell No Key and I bonded over many things over the years including learning an unofficial language. Late night trips to Tim Hortons resulted in the sharing of camp stories which always proved to be funny because, let’s face it, I’m going to cause shenanigans when I’m around little kids for two months. She was the last person I said goodbye to on my final day. Far Stairwell No Key and I made a pinky swear that we would keep in contact with each other, no matter what. To me, pinky swears are more meaningful than a signed document. You can put a document in a filing cabinet, never look at it, and forget it exists. But your pinky is a part of you and unless you close your eyes, you see it every day and it reminds you of the promises you made. Oh, I almost forgot, she is known for her crazy left turns!
Every great leader needs a protege, and outside of being a great friend, that is exactly what M&M has been to me. I remember on the first day of Third Year when we went around the lounge introducing ourselves to the group, M&M said that she played soccer and instantly my ears went up like a deer in a forest. It was that moment I realized that I just found the newest member of my Intramural team. Little did I know that she would take Intramurals just as serious as me and would turn into the Captain of the team when I graduated. I’ll miss all the times we would scout other teams and brainstorm lineup combinations. My proudest moment as a Captain/Coach/Mentor/Friend came when she won the Women’s Intramural Soccer Championship. She deserved it. I was glad I could witness it, especially after a heartbreaking Dodgeball loss the previous night. Sometimes you have to lose, before you can win. Other things I won’t forget are the graduation Panda and pretending the floor is hot lava. Oh man that was quite the night.
Last but not least, the Monkey Boy! In my four years in residence, I had three great bathroommates. Honestly, I lucked out. Some people hated the people they were forced to share a bathroom with. I never faced that problem. I met Monkey Boy in my Second Year in residence and when I found out he was returning to residence the following year, I asked him: “Do you want to share a toilet next year?” He said, “yes.” Wow, that was easy. And so, we were roommates for my last two years of University and it was a blast. We always had an open door policy, no matter what time of day. If our door was shut, lights off, and no noise, it meant the other person was sleeping. We figured each other out pretty quickly. We are also very different. I don’t know how I’m friends with so many people that are complete opposites of me, but I am. I love sports, he doesn’t. Right there, the battle lines were drawn. But we never fought. We weren’t like brothers, we were brothers. I think our living arrangement worked so well because we understood each other completely. When you live with someone, you can’t judge them. You can’t get mad at them. You can’t ignore them. They are a person and they use the same toilet that you do. That is also sacred. I’ll miss the days where we pulled all-nighters together and played video games in a dark bat cave for too many hours. It was truly a lot of fun and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
So those are my close friends that I met at University. They will forever be known as Titans. In 20 years when we all reunite with our families, we will have hundreds of stories and twice as many laughs. I’m very lucky to have met these people. I never went looking for any of these friendships, they all fell right in my lap. I wish I could go back and re-live the last four years, but that isn’t possible.
Shout out to the other great people I met along the way. Although we don’t talk as often, I know we’re still friends and appreciate the fact that I can have a conversation with all of you, at any time, and it not be awkward.
So what now? Well, I am finished school and have a Bachelor of Sport Management degree. I thought by now that I would have a clear idea of what exactly I wanted to do – I don’t. In a way, it’s scary. And I’m already getting tired of being asked if I found a job yet. I don’t think I’ve ever asked anyone if they have a job yet; it’s not my business.
Although I don’t know what career I want to pursue, I keep believing that the right thing will eventually come along. That mindset has served me pretty well in the past and I’m hoping it can work again.
That sums up my University experience. It went far too fast and I wish it could last forever. I will miss it greatly and might have to stay off Facebook in September so I don’t see what I’m missing out on, but no matter what, I will always remember the Titans.