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Friday, May 22, 2015

457 Stormont House - Where I Spent My Nineteenth Year

It's time to say goodbye to the teenage years as we continue this month long retrospective of personal tales - one for each one of my thirty-four years of life.  I hope you've enjoyed the ride so far.  From chicken pox and library cards to playing volleyball and getting lost in the streets of Montreal, it's been fun reliving a lot of fond memories.

It's actually amazing how my fondest memories have taken place in three of Canada's largest cities.  I visited Toronto when I was fourteen, and visited Montreal when I was seventeen.

At age nineteen, though.  I saved the best for last.

You see, at nineteen, I had bid high school goodbye after five...tumultuous years.  I was more than willing to leave not just high school behind, but my hometown goodbye as well.  I wanted to get as far away from all of it, so I applied to as many schools as I could that were far away from where I was currently living.

Or, rather, I applied to as many schools as I could afford to.  The fact that colleges and universities charge you to send an application in is criminal!

Before I tell you where I made my final decision, I will show you a few things.  First, a snapshot of me, taken at my graduation dinner in June 2000.

And, this will be one of the last images you see of me in here.  For whatever reason, I have no pictures of me between 2001 and 2005.  I guess I really didn't like having my picture taken between that time.  Though, don't I look snazzy in my rented tux?

And for pop culture tidbits...have a look!

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/2000
"Maria Maria" - SANTANA f. THE PRODUCT G&B

I suppose the Latino music craze expanded into the year 2000 as well.  Though in this case, I had no objections.  I've always liked Carlos Santana and think that he's one of the greatest guitar players ever.


I suppose that it was one of the biggest movies of the year, and I know quite a few people who saw it and loved it.  But to be honest, I found the film to be not as good as other people made it out to be.  That's not to say it was a horrible movie, but it's not a favourite.


When the show premiered in May 2000, nobody predicted how huge it would become, and many people see this show as the one that sparked the reality television movement - whether they like to admit it or not.  I will say, scheduling the second season premiere after the Super Bowl?  Genius.

So, the biggest event of the year 2000 was heading off to university, and my choices that I had applied to were the University of Guelph, Ryerson University, and Carleton University.  I never applied for any community colleges because I was misled by a couple of guidance counselors who told me that I would never find a good job if I didn't go to university, so I felt pressured to apply.

You'll learn in a couple of entries why I wish I never listened to them.

Anyway, Ryerson rejected me, but Guelph and Carleton accepted my applications.  And I had my heart set on enrolling in Carleton's journalism program, but my GPA was slightly below the cutoff point.  So, I settled with mass communications as my major with film studies as my minor.  That way, I would at least be able to do something with the media, which interested me at the time.

And, well...I will say that during my first year of studies, moving to Ottawa, Ontario, and meeting a whole bunch of people who I had never met was a little scary, but exhilarating at the same time.

Funnily enough, I ended up sharing the same dorm floor as a girl who I went to high school with named Jenna.  Jenna and I weren't particularly close at all, but she was far from being a mean girl.  We just didn't cross paths that much.  Of course, now that we were on the same floor as each other, we got to know each other better, and I ended up liking her by the end of the year.

Truth is, I found it surprisingly easy to befriend people at Stormont House (the name of our dormitory).  My roommate, Grant, was an awesome guy - and we were one of the only pairs of roommates who stayed roommates during the whole year.  Everyone else swapped rooms at least once!  We had our own course load, and went our different ways, but when we were together, we always got along with each other.  I also got to know Grant's pals, Kris, Gabby, and Brooke, and it was amazing how all four of us clicked with each other, even though all four of us were so different.  They certainly helped me make 457 Stormont House feel like home away from home.

We got along so well that we crammed into a car and cranked up the Little Mermaid soundtrack (that somehow Brooke had in her possession), and sang along to "Under The Sea", cruising down Bank Street towards the Rideau Centre.  Sigh.  You had to be there, I suppose.

I also befriended a few of the students who lived off-campus - in particular a couple of twins named Mandi and Meredith.  I can't say enough about those two girls, and they were both fantastic people.  I haven't seen them in years, but I hope that they are well.

I also reunited with an old classmate of mine.  Remember Orijit, the guy who moved away when we were in high school?  We were reunited at Carleton University after years apart!  I think we spent a lot of time together catching up.  Good times!

But as close as I was to Grant and his pals, and to Mandi and Meredith, I soon found my own group of four friends who I hung around with during the whole time I was in first year of university.  We went to the on-campus bars to celebrate birthdays, we hung out in each other's rooms, and we ate lunches together almost each and every day.

(Oh, and one thing about our dorm cafeteria.  They were divided into two sections - green and gold.  My group ALWAYS ate on the green side.  Let's put it this way.  Would you feel better eating in a room that was the colour of celery, or a room that was the colour of urine?)

So, the four people who quickly became my Stormont posse were - in alphabetical order - Dominic, an engineering student who was very quiet for the most part, but when he had something to say, he said it with so much eloquence that he wowed us.  We had Kitty, a Hong Kong born ball of energy who was always bouncing off the walls, but had a keen sense of helping cheer you up when you were feeling down.  Tasha was probably the one out of all of us who always seemed to have a smile on her face, even if things weren't really going well for her.  And Thaila...Thaila was probably the very definition of bohemian.  Marched to the beat of his own drum, played in a band, and definitely very open.  In fact, Thaila was the very first person I befriended in our group, followed closely by Kitty, Tasha, and Dominic.

But here's the difference between high school and university.  In high school, groups tended to hang out by themselves.  In university, everyone was welcome.  Dominic had two engineering friends named Gillian and Lynne, and they quickly became close.  Kitty and I befriended a guy named Revin, who also started hanging around with us.  I saw "The Exorcist" remake with Tasha and a mutual friend of ours named Jon.  Dominic and I took film studies together, where we befriended a girl on our floor named Rebecca, who was incredibly wonderful.   Sarah and Jan became popular because we all hung out in their room which was literally twice the size of ours (lucky ducks!).  And our 27-year-old graduate student of the Stormont House 4th floor, Joseph, also worked at the cafeteria, so he was friends with everybody!

(True story:  Whenever Joseph worked on the build your own sundae station on Sunday evenings, he always used to sneak in an extra scoop for us 4th Stormont people.  Thanks for that, Joseph!)

Really, the experience of dorm life at Carleton University could have been disasterous...but all in all, it was such a great experience.  Everyone was so mature, they treated me with respect.  I had never experienced anything like that before in my life, and it was something that I had to get used to. 

But because of having so many people who really liked me for me really made me come out of my shell.  I helped paint our floor mural.  I worked for the residence newspaper (which had a bit of a unhappy ending, but not everything could be perfection), and yes, I even went to classes and found study buddies to help me with midterms and exams!  What, did you think that all I did in university was socialize?  I did learn a lot as well!  They were also there to help me celebrate the birth of my third and final nephew...and helped me deal with the loss of my grandfather in April 2001 (My other grandfather died nine months earlier in July 2000).

Of course, in life, there are always going to be people you don't get along with.  I had some verbal sparring matches with one of the girls who lived in the dorm next to me, and honestly, I have no idea how I even developed a beef with her in the first place, but she reminded me a lot of some of the snotty girls I went to high school with - thinking that she was Queen of the World, and how nobody could measure up to her.  No loss there.

(Though I was friendly with her roommate, Candice.)
And, I certainly had no nice things to say about the guy who tried to incite a race war against the school by posting some racist memorandums on the walls.  I'm amazed he didn't get kicked out of school.  And considering that his roommates were African-Canadian, I'm amazed he didn't get his ass kicked!

If I could have, I'd have lived in 457 Stormont House for the rest of my life.  Not because it was the nicest place in the world - let's face it, metal beds and concrete walls are never a good look - but because for the first time in my whole life, I found people who really got me, and who really understood me.  It was such a wonderful feeling! 

Even now, I get really misty eyed thinking about it.  It's been fifteen years since I have seen any of these people, and I don't even know where they all are now.  But if any of them happen to be reading this now, I want to say thank you for the friendship you showed me.  Thank you for making me feel alive for the first time...ever.  You probably may not even know who I am, or how much you helped me, but you all made a huge difference.

After's been fifteen years and I STILL KNOW YOUR NAMES!!!  That's how much of an impact you had on me!

Yeah, nineteen was a fantastic year.  One of my greatest years ever.

Which makes writing the story of my twentieth year all that much harder...

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