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False Summit: The First Night Of College

party first night of college

I got into the school I wanted by studying really hard for the “Ethnicity?” question on my college application. Some call it “the Harvard of the Shenandoahs,” others choose to call it James Madison University.

We are one of those lucky schools that dedicates an entire week to the incoming freshmen before classes start. I had a close friend that was a brother in a fraternity already — let’s call him Jake. Jake was trying to recruit me from the day he started pledging, and now that I was officially on campus, he threw me a lifeline.

Jake: Hey man, come to *address* tonight

Me: Ok dude, cool. See you there.

Me: Can I bring my roommate?

Me: What time?

Radio silence from Jake.

So this fucker floods my inbox all summer long talking about how crazy we’re going to crush it when we’re together at school, all the 10s we would snag, the parties we would dominate… but he can’t text my nervous ass back? Of course, I have the confidence that comes with being a freak athlete and a super hot dude that definitely chose, and was not forced, to go to college like everyone else (because I wasn’t plucked from obscurity for fame or fortune); but this was a whole new world. I didn’t know shit about shit. But I knew that I didn’t know shit about shit, and that’s why I was nervous.

I lived with a hometown friend that we’ll call Chris. He and I threw on our best idea of college clothes and headed out around 9:00 p.m. to the address Jake sent me. With what I know now, the walk should’ve taken about 10 minutes. When we were still wandering aimlessly at 9:30 p.m., though, I gave Jake a call. No answer. Chris and I kept wandering while I kept calling, and finally, after 13 calls, Jake picks up the phone.

Jake: “Yo, where you at?”

Me: “Uhh, don’t really know, man. We’re kind of lost.”

Jake: “You just take the first right… then read the numbers on the houses. That’s it.”

Me: “Alright dude, we should be there soon then.”

Jake: “Cool. See ya.”

Chris and I felt reinvigorated: the night was ours once again. When we finally made it to the right house, we awkwardly squeezed between the two older guys standing at the door and expected to see the promised land. Instead, what we found was about five seniors casually leaning against the walls and talking to each other. Jake was nowhere to be found, so I explained to the guys that he told us to come by. After that, they started to warm up to us. They invited us to play flip cup and take some shots, and promised that in literally “26 minutes” it would pick up and the place would be flooded with girls. Chris and I start laughing and getting drunker than we had ever been in our 18 years and, just like clockwork, 26 minutes later we found ourselves in a sea of people.

Around 11:30 p.m., I feel my phone ringing. It’s Jake. He tells me to come next door and go to the basement. I ditch Chris and make my way down there, weeding through another sea of brand new faces until I find my old friend. He embraces me with a smile on his face and says that he forgot he invited me at all. Thanks?

Jake pulls me into a corner with a fifth-year senior and, for the first time in my life, I experience the extracurricular tool that once fueled Tony Montana. The lights get brighter, the smiles get bigger, talking to the girls gets easier, and yeah — I got a lot sweatier.

Looking around, I felt so happy. “This is it”, I thought. I had finally made it. This was the peak, the summit, life could not get any better. As time went on, I learned just how wrong I was. That first night of college was just a look behind the curtain; a dip in the pool. I wouldn’t truly peak until mid-senior year, but damn it was good to know that what I once thought was the greatest possible feeling was really just my new baseline.

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