In college, you tend to gravitate towards a social group based on mutual interests. In my case, the common denominator is a love of questionable decisions and the bad luck that inexplicably tends to follow.
In the interest of graduating without added scrutiny, I’ll simply refer to the group as “The Templewood,” with the shared understanding that most of them never actually lived there and that any stories of questionable moral integrity obviously occurred off campus.
I met the first of the group in the latter half of my freshman year, as I observed him rappelling out of his window in one of the halls using a makeshift climbing harness cobbled together with various carabineers clearly marked “not for climbing.” Fresh out of a spat with my current roommates, I decided that clearly this was the sort of behavior I should be involved in, and thus began a long and strange journey.
During my sophomore year, when he moved into the Templewood apartments, I was introduced to the others in the core group. These were the type of people that were capable enough to pass complex courses on four hours of sleep, yet misguided enough to have stayed up in the first place to build and stain a table in the garage while neglecting a boiling pot of moose heart chili. This duality of creative motivation contrasted with horrible ADHD tendencies is perhaps best exemplified by the surrounding environment.
The apartment was generally a state of utter anarchy, the type of place you would expect children in a post-apocalyptic hellscape to construct for themselves out of the cannibalized remnants of a dive bar. At different points in time the main floor contained a dartboard used only for cheap throwing knives as the darts generally ended up in the wall, a foosball table cleverly designed with a glass top for “water pong,” and an engineering marvel of an arcade designed and built by one of the inhabitants. In the corner often sat the lower half of a department store mannequin, and above the often-roaring fire hung an impressively large caribou rack and skull, spray-painted gold and adorned with sunglasses and Mardi Gras beads. Hanging above the toilet in the main bathroom was a homemade painting of an unsettling clown, which glowed menacingly in the light of a grubby candle that served only to enhance its blank eerie stare.
As the group expanded and the number of potential meeting places skyrocketed, so too did the absurdity one was likely to witness upon arrival. For example, it was not uncommon to drop by for a brew only to discover that someone’s garage had been transformed into a glass blowing studio, an amateur brewery, or a jungle filled with a six foot pepper plant grown in a hydroponic unit. It’s also important to note that these were all the pet projects of one group member who seemed to have mastered a new hobby every two weeks.
The defining feature of the group, as I’m sure you’re coming to realize, was its unbridled — and often unwarranted — optimism, coupled by its horribly misplaced priorities.
At some point, I foolishly introduced the concept of “future me” to the group. The argument tends to go something like, “in 40 years will it really matter that you didn’t [insert relevant important task]?” Despite the obvious flaw that 40 years of combined procrastination will almost certainly matter, the line became a startlingly effective mantra of the group, explaining some of the less defensible decisions.
During the midst of a lake party, the barge — loaded with far too many people — began to sink. The group response was to calmly grab our drinks and relocate to the less sunken side of the platform. By the time we reached shore, shortly before the waterlogged motor feebly sputtered to a halt, we were fully submerged and must have appeared to be standing on a submersible moving sidewalk to anyone watching incredulously from the bank.
Unfortunate events like this tend to plague the group and have been covered extensively by this column in the past. There was the time we sunk an RV into a mud pit at Lake Louise and nearly capsized a small boat. Then there was the time we sunk three snowmachines into Lake Louise and nearly became midnight popsicles in the blistering cold. Considering the fact that we’re making a third attempt at that God forsaken lake this winter, I’m sure we’ll likely lose another piece of heavy machinery beneath its ghostly shores.
A degree is well and good, but the experiences you have along the way shape you just as strongly. While proud of my academic achievement, I can’t help but be equally proud of my honed Smash Bros. acumen, my crash course in arctic survival methods (both alpine and aquatic), and the ability to stay calm in the face of mounting (and self-induced) adversity.
Whether it was ill-fated outdoor excursions, the annual spring Marvel viewings, or the probably-too-frequent holiday parties (and I mean the very minor ones too), the Templewood group offered the perfect way to blow off school stress and make quite a few memorable mistakes in the process.