When I look back upon the first couple of months at SJC, I cannot help but laugh how things were back then. I would say I know about 80-90% of the residents now. I know their names and what they’re studying. I can even tell you where they’re from. The flipside is that about 80-90% of the College knows my name and probably could give you a fairly good description of who am I.
This was not always the case, however. That might come as a surprise to some of my readers, but alas, it is true. I was really nervous in the first week I was here. I had a lot to deal with and my world had changed quite a bit. I was back at school, new degree, new residence, new people, it was a new life. I dreaded going to the dining hall. I wasn’t sure who to sit with and though I was eager to meet people, I felt awkward.
I remember one of the very first dinners, I sat down at this table with one other guy. I won’t mention his name, but let’s call him Andrew. I had met no one at SJC and I felt very green. As I ate, I mustered up the courage to engage Andrew in conversation. Andrew was as about forthcoming as a criminal during interrogation. He had short terse answers to my questions. I was like, woah, this is not going well, grad students must be assholes or something. It turns out Andrew just isn’t a very talkative guy at all, to almost everyone. Of course, at the time I didn’t know this, but I chuckle whenever I think he was the first guy I tried to talk to at SJC.
It was during the formal dinner in the second week of school that I met my very first set of friends at SJC. At the reception beforehand, I came upon this random dude. I introduced myself to him. He said his name was Nic. He also introduced me to his fiancee Marcia. They had just moved into a couples room. I forget what we chatted about, but we wound up sitting at the same table at dinner. After dinner, I’m not sure if we went to Koerner’s afterwards (an SJC tradition!), but we did go back to their palatial suite. The three of us had more wine and I admit I was a little tipsy. Somehow the conversation got steered towards Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Strangely enough, that was when Marcia decided to get changed into her jammies and went to bed.
It was that night, I realized Nic and Marcia were very good people. Lucky for me, they thought I was an ok dude. For the next several weeks, I leaned upon them for support. Though I met a small handful of other people, they were my main set of friends. An almost daily routine consisted of me going over to their place to heat up a can of Campbell’s Chunky soup on their stove. I’d heat up my soup and chat with Nic and/or Marcia about our day. Sometimes, I’d stay and eat there. It was comforting. I even nicknamed myself Kramer because I was over there so much.
It didn’t end there. I used to eat dinner with them all the time. For four months, I can’t even remember how many dinners I didn’t eat with them. My routine was to go onto MSN, and signal either Nic or Marcia about dinner. I’d then go over to their place on my way to the dining hall, pick them up, and we’d all go over to dinner together.
While I got to know both Nic and Marcia very well, I didn’t realize at the time this was not a good way to integrate with the rest of the College. I remember one Friday night near November, I was at McDonald’s with Lindsey eating dinner. Lindsey was one of the few people I had actually got to know outside of Nic and Marcia. We were discussing the people in the College. She began rattling off names for me.
“Do you know so and so?”
“She’s the one with blonde hair, lives in our hallway.”
“Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.”
“She’s going out with so and so.”
“Yeah, it’s obvious. Every one knows.”
“Do you know so and so?”
“Doesn’t he study poly sci?”
“No, that’s someone else. How do you not know this?”
It became clear I did not have my finger on the pulse of the College. I said I didn’t really care I didn’t know all of this, but subconsciously I did care. It seems stupid now that I’d be willing to live two years here and not attempt to get to know as many people as I could.
It’s funny to think that some of my closest friends here cannot remember talking to me once during the first four months of my stay. I simply had no interaction with them. I didn’t seek them out and I was pretty closed off. Damn that was dumb. Case in point, my neighbour down the hall Bryan is now a good friend. He knows my sense of humour and I know his. If you ask him about my early SJC days, he’ll tell you I was a mystery to him. He knew me as the guy with the message board on his door. That’s all he knew about me.
Another example, is my friend Rhonda. We’re close friends now, but I can’t remember talking to her until almost January. I don’t remember eating dinner with her during the first term. I don’t remember her at any of the formal dinners. Weird.
So something must have happened during the holiday break, because I came back a changed man-child. In January, I started branching out. It wasn’t even a conscious decision, it just happened. Sure, I continued to be close with Nic and Marcia, but it no longer pained me if I didn’t eat dinner with them. I began to meet and talk to other people and they got to know me. As this happened, I felt more and more comfortable with myself and with my place in the College. This change was apparent to Marcia, because one day she remarked at how I had opened up to more residents. I could detect she was proud of me, like how a mom is proud of her little boy when she sees him making friends on the playground.
So, here we are now in the present. In the intervening months, I have met so many people. It took me a few months for the real Erwin to emerge, but at least I made the change and I am so thankful for it.