February 15, 2018 by NowhereButPop
My college experience will always fascinate me. It was a three-and-a-half-year sabbatical where food and shelter were provided and there was a seemingly endless stream of girls willing to hookup with you on any random night. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before and will ever experience again. I don’t think I had the best time I could have had in college at Syracuse, but I think I was presented with the experience most uniquely catered to me that I could have had. Mundane insanity, melodramatic amusement and outlandish experiences colored my three and a half years in Syracuse. There were some real halcyon days and plenty of great party nights, but there were also periods of time where I had never felt lonelier in my entire life. I met so many people, but I only keep in contact with a handful of them.
Superficially, Syracuse satisfied everything I could have asked for. The parties were great and plentiful, and there was always something to do. On a deeper level, however, it left a lot to be desired. I never found my niche or a group of people that I could really connect with, most of the people there were very arrogant, superficial and self-congratulatory and at times there was as very junior high kind of vibe that seemed to permeate through the entire university.
All that being said, the good and the bad, my college experience is something that I look back on with either tempered fondness, and other times with pure disdain. I knew I could have had a better time elsewhere, but I also knew I could have had a much less enjoyable time at another school.
Below is the list of songs, broken out by year, that summarize my college experience. To keep it under the 80-minute maximum limit for a CD, I’ve only include 20 songs. These are only a few of the songs that I listened to back then that now remind me of either fun nights or dark days. I’m not including songs that retroactively reminded me of college, instead these are songs I listened to at the time, that I will forever associate with Syracuse.
Side 1: Freshmen Year
“Rude Boy” by Rihanna
Freshmen year of college, this was my secret favorite song. I would listen to this song before going out on Fridays and Saturdays and it would always hype me up. I don’t know if it was that or the beers, but one of the two would give me enough confidence to talk to girls at parties.
“Airplanes” by B.O.B. (feat Hayley Williams)
This song was literally played at EVERY party during my freshmen year of college. It’s impossible for me to hear this song without thinking of Syracuse.
“D.A.N.C.E. by Justice”
I remember hearing this song for the first time in a friend’s dorm and not being able to get it out of my head for weeks after that. “D.A.N.C.E.” symbolized my expanding musical tastes in college. Up until then I pretty much only listened to 10 bands, all of which were rock bands. I never listened to house or electronica, and this song was really my first steps into uncharted musical territory.
“Electric Feel” by M.G.M.T.
For some reason “Electric Feel” always makes me feel contemplative anticipation. There’s a very rainy feel to this song, that reminds me of all the gloomy and overcast days of my freshmen year. For two weeks straight, the sun didn’t shine. There was this feeling of excitement for the weekends in college because I knew I’d be going out to parties, dancing with girls and hooking up with them too, all of which was something I’d always wanted to do in high school, but never did. “Electric Feel” somehow captures that sense of hazy excitement, wasting away the gloomy weekdays waiting for the weekend to go out and be young.
“Until the End of the World” by U2
If there’s one album that completely surmises my freshmen year it’d be U2’s Achtung baby. The newness and excitement of the different was just so exhilarating and pervading. “Until the End of the World” reminds me specifically of the last night of freshmen year, which was one of the best nights of college. Me and a bunch of friends went to a killer party that night and each had our own adventures that night. Suffice it to say, it was the best way to close out my first year in Syracuse. It was a night rife with libidinal energy, jealousy and exaggerated emotions—In short it was a night that epitomized what it meant to be young.
Side 2: Sophomore Year
“The Fame” by Lady Gaga
Sophomore year was the main party year of college. Every Friday and every Saturday it seemed as though there were at least two parties to go to. It was about five guys in my group and our inflated male egos made us believe we were rock stars or something. “The Fame” perfectly captures that desire to party and have a capriciously fun night, and for an entire year that’s pretty much what we did. At times it felt like the weekdays were just a formality to get to the weekends were we would turn up with a can of Four Loko and jump out second story windows to impress a girl, or go home with random girls we met an hour earlier.
“The Real Me” by The Who
Even though sophomore year was the best year of college, I did feel the cold sting of loneliness from time to time just because things were very superficial. I felt as though I wasn’t making deep and real connections with people and that I was a different person to everyone I had met there. Some people thought I was the nicest guy, others thought I was the biggest prick on the planet, and still others thought I was a bit of a ho. I felt as though no one really cared to get to know the real me, and that’s something that I’ll always hold against Syracuse.
“Monster” by Kanye West (feat. Rick Ross, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj)
This right here was my hype song of sophomore year. Before we’d go out to a party, I would need to hear “Monster” to pump me up. For lack of a better term, this was my arrogant song; it somehow empowered me to feel cocky in a way that no other song really could.
“Tower of Babel” by Elton John
All those nights of partying and hanging out with drunk people ultimately didn’t amount to much though. Even though I had a group of friends I’d tear up the campus with, and I was getting with girls more than I ever had before, there was still a longing for something real, something that existed beyond the superficial desire to get drunk, and dance and make out with girls. For all the people I met in school, I never once felt as though I had a shoulder to cry on, or someone whose support was unconditional.
“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” by Meatloaf
I was at a random house party one January night back in 2011 and I met one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The first time I laid eyes on her my jaw dropped and I could literally feel my heart skip beats. I’ll never forget just how swept away I was in her eyes or the way her bright red lipstick cut through the cold winter darkness. I just remember thinking to myself that if she would even entertain a brief conversation with me, I’d be the luckiest guy in Syracuse. Although we wound up talking for the whole night, nothing sexual happened, and I never saw her again, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget about that girl.
Side 3: Junior Year
“Monarchy of Roses” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
I’m with You came out the week before my junior year started, and it was the first RHCP album in five years, so to say I was excited was a bit of an understatement. I was so excited to go back to school because I was living in an on campus apartment, I finally had money to spend and I figured that the party that was sophomore year would just roll right over. Both the album and the school year started off promising, but by the end, I’d view them both as being major let downs. I’m with You was a mess of an album and my junior year ended in a chaotic avalanche of stress, anxiety and loneliness.
“Feeling This” by Blink 182
It certainly felt as though fate had fallen short in its plans for me and a few girls. I’m sure there are a number of parallel earths where I’d been in real relationships with a few girls that I either had crushes on, or been hooking up with. In some of those instances it felt as though things never really progressed as they could have, that there was potential for more, but for whatever reason (mostly immature on one of our parts) nothing substantial ever arose.
“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” by Katy Perry
Hooking up with someone on Friday night and seeing them on campus on Monday and acting super awkward. “What do I say? Do I say anything? Are they thinking ‘Why did I ever hook up with that guy’? Is it weird if I say ‘Hi’?”
“Crazy for You” by Madonna
This is going to sound really weird I know, but in order to prep myself for the insanity of the weekends, I would unwind and relax beforehand on Thursday nights. Back then my sleep schedule was fucked, so I would spend Thursday nights eating Taco Bell while either playing X-Box and listening to Madonna’s Greatest Hits or binge watching Arrested Development for the umpteenth time. It probably sounds kinda sad, but for me it was a way to decompress after the school week, but before the partying that took place on the weekends. It was my me time.
“Shattered” by The Rolling Stones
How Mick Jagger felt about late-70s New York City is exactly how I felt about Syracuse during my junior year. Yes, it could be exciting and fun, but it could just as easily drive you insane between the people, the absurdity and sheer recklessness. By the end of junior year, because of the stress, melodrama and anxiety, I felt as though my brain had been battered and splattered all over Syracuse. That rush that college had provided over parts of those three years had turned from exciting to malignant over the course of my last two semesters there.
“Closing Time” by Semisonic
Whenever I hear this song, I’ll always be reminded of this girl who I had a crush on for about a year and a half. I saw her at a bar shortly after I turned 21 and after a night of hanging out, talking and playing arcade basketball, she finger wagged for me to come over, grabbed me by the shirt and then kissed me as this song was playing in the background.
Side 4: Senior Year
“No Sleep Till Brooklyn” by Beastie Boys
Three out of the four college Halloweens my best friends came to visit me. Even though we were the Beastie Boys our junior year, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” always reminds me of all three of those Halloweens, which were some of the best nights of my life. Junior year Halloween someone asked if we were Mormons, and senior year we dressed up as Ghostbusters and people would stop us in the middle of the street to take pictures with us. Those were some of the best times because I was surrounded by people I knew loved and supported me.
“I Know What I Know” by Paul Simon
The very first day of senior year, I felt like an old man. I had had enough of Syracuse by that point and felt as though there was no reason for me to come back. Although I still had to take a few more classes, that last semester felt like an epilogue of sorts; most of my friends were gone (either due to graduating, transferring, or just getting sick of each other). Seeing these starry-eyed 18-year-olds walk around campus made me feel out of place, especially considering whatever social circle I had, pretty much dwindled to a handful of people. Here these kids were looking forward to the next four years of partying, new friends and random hook ups, just as I had been when I was there age. But by the time I was 21, I was so over college and ready to just be done with it all.
“Cherry Bomb” by John Mellencamp
This song is all about nostalgia and the ways in which we look back on the past. For me, I look back on all the partying I did and how capricious I was at times. Part of me wonders if I’ve actually matured since then, and another part thinks that given a similar set of circumstance I could easily go back to being that guy. And then I think about my future children, and how there’s a whole part of my life that they’ll never know about. They’ll obviously never know me as a young man, or hear about my partying days when I would get drunk off two Four Loko and hookup with girls either on the dance floor or on the roof of a house. All the hopes, fears, stresses, heartbreaks and crushes I had back in those days will forever be unknown to them and to everyone else who wasn’t there with me. I really mean it when I say that you sequester an entire part of your life in college, you go in as one person and you come out as another. The best you can do is look back and smile.
“How Many Friends” by The Who
By the time I was ready to graduate, I found myself asking this question a lot: “How many friends have I really got here in Syracuse”. To this day there are only three people I met in college that I still keep in touch with. For all the partying I did, for all the people I met and for all the girls I hooked up with, I didn’t really have anything to show for it all in terms of real friendship value. That last semester of college, the fall of 2012, was the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I felt as though I had no one who cared for me, no one who could make time for me and no one who wanted to get to know me. I always felt as though most people kept me at arms length, that I was ok in small doses but nothing more than that, or that I was good for a party and to get alcohol, but not much beyond that. Looking back on it, I guess I was depressed. After almost four years of college and meeting scores of people, I felt completely alone.
I hate to end it on a down note, but I’ve reach the 80-minute limit, and truth be told, that’s how my college experience ended—Alone and battling anxiety and depression. I know, I sound like a starving artists laying out on the streets of Spain or France in the 1920s, but college presented a very dichotomous experience for me. Superficially it satisfied everyone I could ever want in a collegiate experience; the parties were great, I had a good group of friends to go out with for about a year-and-a-half, and I got to meet people from all walks of life. On a deeper level though, it left more than a lot to be desired. I never felt part of something bigger than myself, nor did I find something to connect with. Even though it provided me with plenty of things that I was looking for, I just never felt as though Syracuse sincerely accepted me for me.