Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Nod to My Writing Past: My Life as a Freshman Dorm Resident

Editor's Note: Over the next few months, I'll be sporadically writing about certain memories that have influenced and encouraged my writing career. Don't worry, sports fans. I'm currently writing a sports column every Monday over at Howard University's daily college newspaper, The Hilltop. You can check out those articles online at The Hilltop I'm also co-hosting my sports talk radio program "Instant Replay" every Monday night from 6-8pm on WHBC radio, the number #1 college station in the nation. Check out the show every week by streaming online at Lastly, I'll still be writing here, but will probably focus on more open topics. For examples, check out my notes about A Different World, or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. You'll see what I mean.

Anyway, today's moment: Drew Hall. Enjoy.

Who told me that Senior Year was going to be easy?

I thought I had the perfect Senior Year planned out. First, I made sure to take the bulk of my core classes in my early years at Howard to avoid the heavy course loads that sideline most Seniors from graduation. I took "Beginning Swimming" while I lived in Drew Hall (freshman dorm) so that I didn't have to drag the hospital-clean smell of chlorine around on my body for the entire day. Second, I made sure that those AP credits and college level courses from high school (another time that I could have completely slacked off and enjoyed the year to the fullest) actually got processed by Howard University. I almost got bamboozled, especially with Ms. Han my old graduation scheme advisor deciding to throw up the deuces and leave HU as soon as her pension kicked in. After a long flight back from Beijing that easily left me jetlagged for about two weeks, I had to force myself to wake up early, grab an appointment with my new advisor, and make sure that I was in line with HU regarding my expected departure date, May 2009. Lastly, I wrote a Junior Thesis so that I could merely expand the old thesis into a full length assignment, graduate, and still have to time to write the occasional Facebook "note." Boy, was I ever wrong.

I really miss Freshman Year.

Back during Freshman Year, before I found my niche as a sports guy and all-around creative writer, I was a History major. I loved memorizing random facts, such as the fact that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thinking that he was slowing down Adolf Hitler's desire to control Europe by deciding to hand over Czechoslovakia in a treaty. Honestly, was that really going to work? To me, that's the equivalent of giving the neighborhood bully your lunch money for the day, but telling him, "Well, I'm not giving you my money tomorrow, okay?" Do you think he's going to listen? Of course not! He'll probably just wait and then jack you for your loot tomorrow on your way to the bus stop, which is precisely what Hitler did when he entered Poland to force the Second World War in 1939.

(Wow, we're way off topic...let's get back to reminiscing about Freshman year. Sorry.)

Many of the references and ideas that have shaped my writing style were developed during my time in Howard University's Drew Hall. Candidly, Drew Hall was a year-round sweatbox designed in a U-shaped specifically to raise the heat index, and that's putting it nicely. However, Drew Hall was a place that a young frosh could develop into a successful Howard student, to become aware of his surroundings, to understand what it meant to be a college student.

Of course, I'm glad that the elevators in the Towers apartments don't get stuck during Move-In week. I'm also glad that I don't share a shower (ONE single shower) with 40+ dudes and live across from the floor's garbage bin that was filled to the brim daily with old Domino's pizza boxes (gotta respect the 5-5-5 deal) and the famous Ho-Chi scent that disseminated through the halls (along with the caked-up smell of marijuana). However, behind those prison walls and living in the dreary greenish paint that donned the walls of the hated menace, a group of exceptional guys existed. Everyday, behind the doors of Drew's solitary "Penthouse" triple, a displaced genius from New Orleans, an excited optimist from Queens Village, and three great guys from Raleigh, North Carolina joked, laughed, created theories, played video games, and became great friends.

To me, that's what college life is all about. There, in Drew 539, we could chronicle the now-late Sean Taylor's devastating blows through YouTube, wonder aloud at the idea that Will Smith must have had mononucleosis during his run on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and hold Madden '06 tournaments while arguing for Laveranues Coles' inclusion into a discussion of the Top-25 wide receivers in the league, among other things. The "Raleigh Three" (Brenden, Ellis, and James) along with Jamin helped this young writer cultivate creative new ways to approach writing. While getting to know these guys helped bolster my knowledge of sports and trivia which eventually brandished me as the "Throwback" guy around campus, the friendship that grew over the course of those ten months was important in helping me develop a strong sense of confidence with myself. Simply put, Drew 539 was pure awesomeness.

Nowadays, as I look at life's odometer and realize that my college career has just about run its course, I recognize that my residency in that sweatbox on Gresham Place was key in my development as a writer, a student, and a person. I thank God (first for providing me with awesome ceiling and floor fans) and secondly for allowing us to grow together as students and men. Granted, I never again want to share five washing machines with 300+ guys or lose my visitation privileges because some idiot decides to make the broom closet his personal bathroom stall. However, Drew was a place where you could shout in the hallway after a clutch World Series home run or cackle like Eddie Murphy after defeating your opponent in NBA Live and any guy walking by would cackle along with you.

Drew Hall, thanks for the memories.

-Mike Benjamin, II

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