Many graduates from the valley’s high school class of 2015 are about to hit the road, heading to far-flung universities with their cars packed to the brim with clothes and dorm room furnishings, half of which they don’t need.
I had plenty of expendable and stereotypical items crammed into my 1985 Subaru station wagon when I embarked on my journey from Spokane to Wyoming. There were rock-and-roll posters, a beanbag chair, a trunk full of miscellaneous items, including, but not limited to, compact discs, hacky sacks, a lava lamp and a George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine.
Decorating that first dorm room, many teenagers’ first home away from their parents’ nest, is a right of passage for college freshmen. Forget Feng Shui, now you get to furnish a room how you choose fit.
The problem, I soon realized that first week of college, is that dorm rooms are tiny; even smaller when you empty a carload of stuff into them, and smaller still when your roommate does the same. Luckily, my first dorm mate was someone who shared my taste in tacky décor and loud music. So we decorated to guitar riffs blaring from oversized speakers that would be excessive in a regular-sized apartment.
When we finished, every inch of the walls were covered with tapestries, corkboards and posters that glowed when illuminated with black lights. Chairs, candles holders and a refrigerator were crammed into the corners, leaving about 30 square feet in which to walk around the room. It was cluttered, but it was ours.
Unfortunately, that newfound sense of independence and ownership soon wore off. As the items spread across the floor, those small quarters felt claustrophobic. And the incense could no longer mask the smell of old burnt cheese wafting from the Foreman grill. Even the posters on the wall began to look dreary.
Those first few months of college are humbling (or should be), sharing a room, bathroom and washing machine with dozens of others who were as eager as you to move out on there own. Instead, I was convinced renting my own place off campus would break the bondage of dorm living and, when I transferred to the University of Montana, I would get that chance.
This time, I packed a Toyota Tercel and hit the road; this time, I would be really on my own, sharing a house in Missoula. I had found on a bulletin board a perfect new roommate who explained how great his pad was. It had a deck and, best of all, a hot tub. My junior year was going to be great. My parents don’t even have a hot tub, I thought.
I had traded the George Foreman grill for real pots and pans, oversized speakers for a desktop, and hacky sacks for a longboard. But little changed. The best weekends were those when my parents arrived with a bag of groceries and stuck around long enough to help me catch up on dirty laundry. And my roommate’s parents, who lived across town, served as my second home.
Many incoming freshmen will adjust fine to those first years of college, and the rest of us should learn from them. Because the rest of us, once confident teenagers driving across the country in a vehicle filled with all our belongings, soon realized we don’t really own anything and know even less. We continued to lean on our parents, who were less impressed by the broken hot tub in the backyard than ensuring that their children survived.
Good luck out there in the real world, freshmen. Pro tip: Leave your lava lamp and black light posters at home.