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Listen up freshmen

Greg Ruehlman | Monday, September 1, 2003

Well, freshmen, you’ve finished your first full week at Notre Dame. I’m sure you’ve already begun to figure things out and have had a lot of fun. Like during orientation, when you sang “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling” to the girls of Pangborn. Or when you sang “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” to the ladies of Lewis. And that great rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling” in front of Badin? That was awesome.It’s funny to be on the other side now. This year I’m an RA in Dillon, where I first awkwardly moved in three years ago. I remember how much my first RA helped me to adjust, and I think it’s my job to do the same, at least when I have time off from my primary job here: modeling underwear for the Bookstore catalogs (4-1576, ladies). But why stop at just my section? I’ve decided to share some advice to help all you freshmen adapt.When my orientation started, I was overcome with a deep sense of anxiety – not to mention indigestion, because I ate a lot of JuJuBees on the trip here. All I’d heard from Notre Dame students during my high school visit was “homework this,” “responsibility that” and “GWAAAACK!” At least that’s what some really drunk guy said as he vomited on my host student’s carpet. I noticed that starting college was a lot like starting first grade because there’s so much uncertainty and excitement. The big difference is that here the teachers aren’t so understanding when you fingerpaint in class or wet your pants. Sadly, I learned both of these lessons the hard way. Don’t make the same mistakes.A big question mark for me was fitting in. You see, I was always more of the intellectual type in high school. And by “intellectual type,” what I really mean is “gigantic dork.” But what you’ll find is that, by and large, these labels disappear, and you’ll be accepted as you are. Another great thing about college is newfound free time and fast Internet. My roommate and I spent lots of time downloading Wesley Willis songs. For those of you who don’t know about Wesley Willis, he was a musical genius who died a few weeks ago. And by “genius” I mean a paranoid-schizophrenic, 350-pound homeless man who shouted profanities over a pre-programmed keyboard beat. He wrote such classics as “I Whupped Batman’s Ass,” “Freak-Out Hell Bus” and “Cut the Mullet.”I think homework is the biggest difficulty at Notre Dame. Sometimes it simply becomes overwhelming. For me, papers were the worst. Fortunately, I developed a successful solution for dealing with that 10-page paper due in the morning:Step 1: Come up with original, engaging thesis; develop it into coherent, cogent argument.Step 2: Erase everything you’ve written. It’s terrible.Step 3: Find hammer and hit yourself over head with it until you pass out.You will probably miss your family very much. Call as often as you can. But no matter how many times you do call, things just won’t quite be the same anymore. “I love you” doesn’t have much effect when it’s said after shamelessly begging for money and awkwardly explaining that you’ve ruined 5 pairs of your underwear in Dillon Hall’s dishwasher trying to save some money on laundry. My advice is to expect the unexpected. My freshman year, someone told me they’d seen my picture in Sports Illustrated. At first I doubted, but then I saw it myself, every man’s dream come true: half of my face, visible to the left of the basketball net at the JACC. I couldn’t help but think of the song “One Moment in Time.” I also thought about the song “Holy Crap, I’m in Sports Illustrated,” which I will have to write someday if it is not a real song already.This newfound celebrity had its pros and cons. Imagine the added intimidation for my Bookstore Basketball team when you’ve been in Sports Illustrated. But since I’m a terrible basketball player anyway, we lost and the only ankles I was spraining with my moves were my own. Unfortunately there was one big Sports Illustrated setback. They decided for some bizarre reason not to publish my follow-up, a “Speedo Pictorial” in the 2001 Swimsuit Issue. I’ve never felt so crushed. A $40 bikini wax down the drain. I spent two weeks drowning my sorrows in Haagen-Dazs.Now, I’m not saying you’ll be in a famous magazine. But there’s a wonderful kind of randomness about college. Embrace it. Be yourself and enjoy the heck out of this year. Who knows where you’ll end up and what crazy adventures you’ll have. Maybe someday you can write a stupid column about them, just like me.

Greg Ruehlman is a senior English and theology major. His column appears every other Monday. He can be contacted at [email protected]