The previous issues have told the story of my journey to Bryan College. But now, it is time to slow down and take a step back to tell a portion of the story that I have largely bypassed.
On August 26, 2021, I walked into Bryan College, entered room 239 in Mercer Hall, and sat down for my first day of class as a Dual Enrollment student: College Writing I.
I cannot honestly say that it wasn’t what I expected, because I really didn’t know what to expect. But I was somewhat surprised by two things: first, no one looked down on me because I was a high school student; and second, people seemed to be interested in me, something that I was not used to in public school.
Our professor, Ms. Murray, started the first class with introductions: name, major, and two interesting facts. I knew my name, and I didn’t have a major because I was dual-enrolled, but interesting facts were a bit harder.
Compared to other kids my age, I was a notably interesting person. My job at the radio station provided me with opportunities that many of my high school peers would not have. I had websites, videos, and a published documentary. I wore a suit to work every day, and I was actually wearing one in class because I actually needed to get to work—almost 50 miles away—afterward.
So I started with what they could see. I was wearing a suit because I worked as an intern at a radio station, where I did such-and-such, (you can read about this in a previous issue). Then I told them as my second fact that I had published a full-length (90-minute) documentary on American history.
As a small fish in a big pond, I did not expect anyone to remember this, and I was used to it. I figured that people’s interest in me would die out soon, certainly after two weeks when my internship was over and I stopped wearing a suit to class. Then, I’d become an ordinary nobody. Except that I wasn’t even in college, so I would be—not even nobody.
A few weeks later on Labor Day, my family and I got up bright and early to arrive at Bryan in time for my class, as well as to check in for Bryan’s Labor Day on the Hill event. This was a day when afternoon classes were canceled, prospective students could come to visit, and there was a big picnic with games afterward. And on that day, two very unusual things happened to me.
The first was that while everyone was waiting for lunch to be served, a rather tall person whom I vaguely recognized walked up to me and started talking to me as if he knew me,
After a few moments of carrying on the conversation, he said that he’d watched part of the film I made, and that it was really good. Due to my surprise, I could no longer hide the fact that I had no clue who I was talking to. I asked him how he knew about it.
“You told us about it in Ms. Murray’s class.”
I suddenly recognized him as Jack Smith, a soccer player and contender for the office of Freshman Senator. This young man, who I saw near the top of the social ladder, was for some reason interested enough to remember, look for, find, and take time watching something that a kid, a not-even-nobody, had created.
The second unusual thing was that as this day progressed, I was able to fit in during the games and activities. People interacted with me as a normal person, and they seemed to enjoy my participation as much as that of anyone else. The effect that this had on me was so profound that I actually decided to join the volleyball game. Despite the fact that I was not really good at that or any other sport, I felt confident that I could play well enough, and that no one would point and tease me in a spiteful way if I was wrong. What surprised me even more was not that I was right in this confidence, but that in this non-hostile environment, I could actually play well enough to thoroughly enjoy the game.
Before I wrap up the telling of this day, I wish to share something else about it.
There was another young man that I had never met, but who I had seen around campus several times, including multiple times on this particular day. The reason that he was worth remembering is that he stuck in my head for some reason, from the very first time that I saw him, (which I don’t remember precisely).
It would be a long time before I could understand the significance of this, but I continued to see him for the rest of that semester and the next, always from a distance and never speaking to him. But I did hear his name said once. The only problem was I forgot it promptly afterward, and I remembered only that it started with a J.
For the rest of that semester, Jack and I would talk after class. He always wanted to know how I was. I remember that when my dog was sick, and we were afraid that she would die, I avoided everyone that day, including Jack. But the next time class met, he stopped me afterward and made me tell him what was wrong. It was unusual, he said, for me to not talk to people. And he was right.
I didn’t see Jack at all during the next semester when I took College Writing II. This time, instead of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I went to class on Tuesday and Thursday, and I was much less socially active. This was mainly my own fault, and I may tell of it in a much later issue. But I did develop a friendship with a married military veteran who was slightly older than most students. He and I worked together, asked each other’s advice, and just talked about whatever was up. He and I still communicate to this day, and he recently said that we talk more often than he does with some of his best friends.
But my social dormancy would not last forever. That summer, as I have said, I attended the Summer Institute at Bryan College. For some time now, I have been promising to tell you that story. So now, lest in frustration you vow never to read another word of my writing, I shall endeavor to do so at last.