20 years ago, I graduated from college
Updated: May 22
I graduated from college in May of 2000. Twenty years ago!
This morning, I pulled out the photo albums from college and made the boys "walk down memory lane" with me. I decided it might be fun to share some of the college pics and talk about the formative years I had at Appalachian State and ASU BSU (Baptist Student Union). Here goes...
This is Freshman Year. Jennifer. Leslie. Jennifer. Liz.
Freshman year I lived in Eggers Hall which was an all girls' dorm at the time. My roomate's name was Jennifer. Eight of my friends were named Jennifer. My name is Jennifer. Jennifer was the most popular name given to American girls in 1978. All the Jennifers started going by our last names so we could keep track of who we were talking to. That's how I got the name Helms.
This is Lohr. She and I were hallmates, then next door neighbors, then apartments mates and always friends. Easter weekend of Freshman year, she gave herself a blonde streak. I chopped all my hair off into a pixie cut and used Frost and Glow to bleach it platinum.
Here I am with that platinum hair. (I was showing these pictures to the 20-something year old intern who lives here. She was shocked that I had paper pictures. These glossy pictures are hard to capture using cell phone camera.)
The summer after my freshman year, I worked on staff at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly Grounds at Fort Caswell. My friend, "Veg" for vegetarian, went to ASU with me and also worked at Caswell that summer. Veg is out there in the world working in the hospitality industry in Columbia, SC.
I spent every summer of my childhood going to Caswell, so when I was accepted onto Summer Staff, I was very excited. There were 75 staffers and my job was to work in the dishroom. That meant having a grueling schedule that started early in the morning before breakfast and went past dinner. I slept in between meal shifts at the pool. I was the tannest I have ever been in my entire life. I remember struggling with the melodrama of living with 75 young adults. I had so many crushes and felt pretty much invisible to most folks. I was grateful for the grounding friendship that Veg provided to me and for the joyful laughter that Heather brought me. I admired Heather so much for being such a badass creative playful person! My bunkmate, Amanda, was funny, affirming, and kind. Ryan worked with us in the dishroom that summer. For a long while after that, he and I kept up with one another. I remember asking him, later after the summer, why he never asked me out. I don't remember his answer.
A bunch of my college pictures are of groups of people all piled up on each other. Either that or us playing with each other's hair- hair styles, hair color, hair cuts, etc. My theory for why this is the case is that we were all learning how to be close. How do you friend someone? How can you be intimate and platonic? We didn't discuss how, we just tried it out. I don't know at what point as an adult I stopped touching other adults. Was there an age where we all decided we were not going to touch each other anymore?
I met Greg at Caswell. Greg likes to joke about how he was a camper and I was a staffer when we met. He came down to Caswell to join his youth group for his last big youth trip before heading off to college. Cathy Hopkins, who knew me from church at FBC Raleigh, introduced us. Her husband, Mike, was Greg's youth minister. Greg was best friends with Matt, who also worked on summer staff that year. So, we ran into each other a few times while he was there that week. We became friends at ASU BSU- Baptist Student Union.
I spent all of my time at BSU. I never lived in the BSU building, but I had a key and was there whenever I had down time, which was a lot. Almost all of my college friends and mentors came from BSU. You see that group picture of a bunch of us pointing in different directions? That's BSU council, the leadership team. See the guy up at the top making a peace sign? That's Bud. (Here's the blog I wrote about Bud.) There are too many stories than a blog can handle about ASU BSU. Little known fact: I was in a traveling singing group called "Dedications" while in college.
What I can say is that I was in love in college. I was in love with the mountains. I was in love with God. I was in love with my friends. I was even, sometimes, in love with myself. I loved the weather. I loved all the walking. I loved the food. I loved the community. I loved it all.
Most of my college friendships are hazy now. We are connected through social media, but not a lot more than that. I think I only have one person's contact in my phone. (We didn't have cell phones in college. I could, though, boast having a bag phone that I won from a credit card company. I didn't have a phone service, though, just the phone. Ha!)
It is astonishing to me, even as we are not at all connected now, I absolutely love the folks in these pictures. I see them and I smile. Some of them even give me that weird butterfly feeling of love, that old crush puppy love feeling. Some of them make me sense a knowing, deep love.
I'll end this post with a highlight of my college days. Nicholas, my best friend at the time, and I learned and performed the SNL Spartan Cheerleader skits at several local and statewide BSU events. Years later, when I worked as a campus minister for BSU, a fellow campus minister came up to me and said, "Aren't you the girl who used to dress like a Spartan Cheerleader?" Proudly, I said yes. "I remember you! You're the one who said 'sex on a stick' at a statewide baptist event!"
Yep, that was me.