I remember the day I left home for college very well. After 18 years of living in my parents’ house, and seeing very little of the world outside of Springfield, Illinois, I was finally able to make my break. I wasn’t going that far away, geographically speaking. In truth, I wasn’t even leaving the state of Illinois. But I was leaving, and once I did that I realized that there wasn’t any going back. And that’s exactly as I wanted it to be.
All of my clothes were packed up, along with the typewriter I had received as a high school graduation gift. I may have been the last American teenager to get a present like this, but it was mine and I intended to use it. I really had nothing else to call my own. So my parents loaded us into our Chevy Impala for the drive northward toward Evanston, Illinois.
When we arrived on campus, my father stopped some students in the parking lot of my dorm to ask where Bobb Hall was located. I nearly died of embarrassment, since this was a college campus and asking for directions wasn’t cool. But on the other hand, the sooner that I got to the dorm, the sooner my college career could begin.
My dad parked the car, and everyone grabbed something to bring inside. Of course, I felt like all eyes were on me, and I was being judged by the older students who already knew their way around the campus. I was nervous and excited and terrified, but I was determined to let none of those emotions come out. Just act cool and everything will be OK, I told myself again and again.
Bobb Hall was, and still is, a dorm populated mostly by Northwestern‘s freshman students. It’s also the biggest party dorm on the campus, but I didn’t know that yet. All I knew is that it was going to be my home from that day until next spring, and that was good enough for me.
I knew that my room number was 104, but beyond that I had no idea of what to expect. Would it be more quiet than noisy? Would there be people there that I couldn’t stand? And where did the girls live? When you’re 18 and about to be turned loose into the wider world, those were the questions that needed to be answered.
When I got to my room, I paused for a moment. On the door there was a piece of construction paper with my name, my room number, and a cut-out from Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are“. Not some obscure philosopher, but a character from a children’s book. I immediately told myself that everything was going to be all right, and it was. I felt like I was at home.
Bobb Hall, and the neighboring McCulloch Hall, was indeed a wild place to spend my eighteenth year. There were many rumpuses there over the course of the school year. My grades suffered as a result of this, and that might be the closest thing I have to a regret about my college years. But Maurice Sendak‘s characters effectively welcomed me, and my fellow dormmates, to college for the first time, and for that reason they will be with me always.