Chapter 67: “My First Semester at UMaine Orono”
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The air had grown crisp earlier than usual on this late August day in Maine. As I drove up the long campus street to my designated parking lot, I rolled down the windows to take it all in. It was one of those serene moments in which I took a step back out of my mundane day-to-day existence and marveled at the gift that was life. In these moments, I thought back to that first time I stepped outside of the hospital – holed up for over a month – and it never failed to humble. I could have been dead never to experience this faux-fall day or the first day of classes that would be the propulsion towards my career.
I parked my car by the Maine Center for the Arts (the on-campus performance hall) and pulled out my “newbie” map. I located the building at which my class was held. Knox Hall… Where are you? Shit! The hall was almost a mile away! And it was 7:50. I jogged as much as my man boobs would gracefully allow and made it just at 8:00.
This first class was the introductory course, Intro to New Media. “New Media” was their blanket program that housed Computer Programming, Graphic Design, Photography, and my focus: Film Studies. It would appear they schedule these introductory courses at the earliest slot to ensure that students were properly trained. Why else would they fill them at this UNGODLY hour?
The course was as dry as a pile of bones. Don’t get me wrong, the student teacher was awesome but the material lacked any vivacity. We delved into the history of the visual medium of film and slowly began to discuss computers, animation, and processing power. It was mildly interesting but hard for which to give my full attention.
Funnily enough, I looked over and saw Kyle. Holy shit, we have a class together! Naturally, I already knew this going in; we exchanged schedules but nevertheless, it was good to have a friend here. After the early class, Kyle and I went to his dorm room, which was all the way on the other side of the campus in Kennebec Hall. We had some time to kill before our next classes and so Kyle busted out his Gamecube and we played some Smash Bros. Melee. We smashed for a good solid hour before we decided we needed sustenance. We headed down to the Memorial Union (their a la carte space) and ate like kings.
We soon parted ways and went to our next class. But wait a minute– That’s right! We had the same second class of the day too. I could get used to this UMaine life. The next class was a computer programming class that was taught by this very cold and odd man named Mike Scott. This man was one of the most unique men I had ever met and I quickly realized he wasn’t going to be much help when it came to the actual coding assignments. What does he want me to do, teach myself?! Did he expect me to push myself to new levels? No, thank you. I know now that that man would always remain implanted in my mind for his unique methods. His approach to life was something to truly emulate.
Over the first week, I was introduced to my other courses and to my other classmates. I was enthralled to FINALLY be on the path to success. I was going to be a filmmaker; it was all I had ever wanted to do.
I had a pretty fascinating graphics design class that was teaching me Photoshop and Illustrator for the very first time. This instructor was great too because she assigned us actual video-related assignments. Thank God!
And finally, I had my favorite class: a Film Theory class. In this class, we would watch movies – sometimes in class and other times as assignments – and then analyze them via discussion or papers. This was a CLASS: watching movies and then talking about them? I’d already been doing this for years!
But soon after the first week of school, it was already time for the Bar Harbor Retreat. Mom and Gary picked me up on the way to our third annual retreat thanks to the Ronald McDonald House. It was a whole new world for me. I felt completely different since last year’s memorable trip. I had become more of an adult than ever before. Well, okay, except that time I may have procured Leukemia. That WAS the impetus for that trip (and this book) after all.
As I suspected, the trip wasn’t as special as it had been the first two times. The first year it was a memorable experience and the second… well, I was smitten; head over heels for someone who actually reciprocated the feeling if only for a short time. So in the end, this trip was fun but not as special as the first two. And we didn’t even get to use my whale-watching tickets! It’s okay; they were good for seven years. Soon, Mom and Gary dropped me off back to Bangor – and Travis to Caribou – and I was back to paying bills and getting an education.
Between Subway and school, the following weeks went by quickly. Before I knew it, we already had our Fall Break. And by this week in early October, Kyle and I must have skipped two classes apiece. New Media was such a pain in the ass. What a slog of an experience.
In fact, one time while we skipped the class for our regular “I crash on his futon and then we play Smash routine“ (on the way out of his dorm) we saw our student teacher Allen fly by on his bicycle catching us in the act of skipping class. We were, at first, afraid that we would get called out on this act until we saw his majestic hair float in the wind as he rode the gravitational pull of the nearby hill. No, instead, all we could utter was the onomatopoeic sound of his golden locks: Pfhfhfhfhfhfhfhffhfhfhfhfhfh.
The class skipping had become a problem. Kyle, his friend Evan, and I would play Smash A LOT. We couldn’t help it. But also I felt each class pose a challenge to my work ethic – or lack thereof – and my energy levels were consistently too low and so, I required sleep. I, of course, worried that was a sign of returning so I made sure to mention this in my next doctor’s visit.
Dr. Allen (no, not THAT Allen, my real doctor) ensured me that the lower energy is part of the prognosis from my treatment. My red blood cells would never be at the same levels as they once were. I took that news in stride (and lamented my lack of energy, internally) and went about my day.
Why couldn’t I stay awake at school? At work, I was fine. Maybe it was because I was always on my feet? Surely, that couldn’t be all. It certainly was because I wasn’t getting the education I was once sold upon. I thought that I would be able to make movies, not just talk about them. When can I hold a fricking camera?
The New Media program was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In order to progress in your desired field, you had to pass all the basic courses of each focus, meaning I had to pass Computer Programming and Graphic Design to continue in Film. Why?
I was frustrated in my educational path and that – in turn – only exacerbated my desire to skip these extraneous classes. I hadn’t been such a bad student since my first two years of high school when I didn’t care. It was only when I put my full focus behind school again that I had prospered. Was I doomed to fail out of this school and go crawling back to Fort Kent? I liked it down here in Bangor and never wanted to live in my hometown again.
Hell, I even skipped some classes and homework in my Film Theory class. What the fuck was I doing?!
I had to get my shit together quick or I was going to fail this semester. All of the eye-opening moments of appreciation of life couldn’t bring my grades up; it was all up to me.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.