I spent my first night at Carolina picking through the dollar-spot at Target and trying to find someone, anyone, to bond with over neon shower caddies. UNC had organized a shopping trip for freshmen, and as an out-of-state student hunting for friends, I had thought to try my luck in high-density activities.
But it was to no avail. I did run into a senior who — after learning that I had all of college stretched out before me — gushed over how jealous she was.
Standing beneath the fluorescent lights in the Target checkout as the seconds plodded past, I did not believe her.
After all, I had not wanted to come to UNC. Where I was from, school spirit clogged your arteries like fat. Basketball games simply had too many points to cheer for, and Carolina orientation weekend left me with one image: too many people and too many mosquitoes trying to inhabit the same swamp-thick air.
But now, as any senior facing the looming maw of the real world — populated by such nefarious and alien beings as time sheets and ornery bosses and fax machines that seem to be always-already broken — I am poring back over the past four years with nostalgia.
The story of how I fell in love with Carolina is not a simple one. It would take a profusion of words — many more than my editor would allow me, or that anyone would want to read.
Nor is it a linear arc. Carolina seduced me through a smattering of afternoons and evenings, late mornings and sunrises seen without sleep.
Insert all of the typical images here: lying on the quad, drinking beer on the TOPO patio, cramming in Davis during finals while glaring at the students watching YouTube videos, discovering Carrboro, then Durham, loving and hating the term paper you’re immersed in, and laughing, laughing often and laughing hard, with some of the brightest people you’ll ever meet.