It didn’t take long to realize I was living in a weird dorm.
We were the outcast of the outcasts, a true leper colony. My dorm, West Hall, was one of the few that hadn’t been renovated–mostly because they were planning to tear it down in a few years–and within that dorm my room was in Habitat House. Weirdos among weirdos. Especially odd guys and gals living amidst writers and art students. That should already say something about me, I guess. It felt appropriate. It felt right.
A lot of the people living in that hall my Freshman year were Sophomores who had spent the year before getting to know one another. Luckily they were very open about letting in newcomers and bolstering their ranks. The first time I really felt like part of the group, we all walked across camps (since we were on the wrong end of everything) and went to the convenience store. The Habitards were born that day. (I’m not condoning the nickname, by the way–that’s just what we were called.)
Probably my favorite memory of those first few weeks of school was the evening I was supposed to be studying for my first Biology test. Everyone was hanging out in the hallways, as they liked to do, and our door was open to beckon passers-by into conversation and distraction. Rumor was the old-timers were going to take some of us newbies on a walk to a nearby park. Always eager to spend time socializing and making friends, I immediately jumped at the idea.
So we set out, a group of nine or ten, composed half of Sophomores and half of Freshman. I was new to the area, new to the school, and hadn’t spent much time exploring. This, compounded by my naturally terrible sense of direction, meant that I was lost in no time. “Are we close?” someone would ask every once in awhile. Originally the park had sounded close by, but we walked five, ten, fifteen minutes without seeing one. We walked along streets, past prettily-painted houses, down along the beach, then up the coast of Lake Superior. Light was fading. And every time it was, “Just a little bit further!”
It never even occurred to me that I might be getting hazed.
Finally, just as it began to get dark, we found the park we had been journeying to. It was a cute little thing tucked away by the docks, right next to Marquette’s small down-town area. By this time I was utterly clueless as to where I was, but it was fine. At least I was with a group, not sitting alone in my dorm room like some friendless nobody. This trip meant I was definitely in, and it shadowed the close-knit group of the next two-and-a-half years.
After a while of playing in the dark on kid’s equipment we started back, although not the way we had come. About a minute away was a main street, which we followed back to campus… And we got there in no time. That’s when it became obvious to all of us that we’d been had on the way there. What was a meandering, complex, thirty-minute trek had been in reality a five-minute walk from campus. The older Habitat members had a good laugh. Secretly I laughed, too.
Because it was just nice not to be afraid of being alone anymore.