My roommate owns a 7-inch record by a band called Styrofoam Ceiling: two songs on transparent, surf green vinyl, packaged in a clear plastic sleeve with a small card inside that gives the name of the band, the names of the songs, a serial number and absolutely nothing else.
And though this may not seem like much, all the information that is available about this band seems to exist on this card and on the record. I’ve tried to find more details about the band online – anything – and the only thing I’ve been able to determine for sure is that the record was released in 1995 on a small label based in Raleigh.
The music is slow, hypnotic rock, with jangling guitars and shimmering synths that swoop in and out of the mix. There is no shortage of bands like this, I know – but something about these songs seems special, and the record is one I play more frequently than most others in my house, especially as I near my graduation from UNCG.
For one reason or another, that record makes me think of the times I’ve had at UNCG over the years – the non-academic ones, at least. The music has an air of secrecy and intimacy – quiet vocals cycling through repetitive phrases that don’t seem to have solid meaning one can pin down over pounding, minimalistic drums that loosely carry the music forward.
But there’s a sense of celebration there, too – in one song called “The Modern Age,” the music suddenly rushes to a joyous crescendo mid-song, bringing the anonymous musicians together in a frantic blast of sound before settling back into the song’s main loop.
When I hear it, I can’t help but think of the long nights I spent following friends around the College Hill area in search of that one friend-of-a-friend’s house who happened to be holding a get together, ducking occasionally to avoid the branches of Greensboro’s canopy overhead, wondering where I would end up and who would be there when I arrived.
The houses in this area still fascinate me – these gorgeous late-nineteenth century structures seem perfectly quiet, almost frozen in time, until you find yourself in the foyer of one, surrounded by people your own age, many of them complete strangers.
This has been the one constant in my college years. No matter how bad a particular class got, how stressed I was, or what was going on in my life outside the classroom, I could always count on Greensboro itself. I could always be sure that there would be people and places on this side of town that, after all these years, would still surprise me.
That singular, addicting buzz of meeting new people in new places, even if I knew I’d never see them again – it never got old. If you’ve ever explored this campus (and the area surrounding it), if you’ve ever gotten lost here in the middle of the night and somehow still found your way to something quietly amazing, you know what I’m talking about – like it does for me, UNCG means more to you than what you did in class or in your dorm.
But it will all be ending soon enough. After two short classes this summer, I will – barring any major tragedies – graduate from this university. As excited as I am to move on to the next part of my life, graduating will likely be difficult and strange. Recently, I’ve reached out to other people I know who are graduating, and many of them are in a similar boat.
I talked to a friend – a fellow senior – about how it’s all ending and what that means. He used the word “weird” more than any other. He’s right – it is weird to get so used to a way of living and then get up and leave it. It’s weird leaving college.
But college is weird, too – somehow getting an A on a paper that was done in one anxiety-ridden night on the bedroom floor, eating in a room with hundreds of other people your age night after night, getting done with class by noon to get home and sleep until the sun goes down – it’s all weird and completely unique to the college experience.
But for better or worse, I’ve become completely used to it all now, and whatever comes next for me could never be weird in quite the same way.
Clint Ronsick, another friend of mine who is graduating in May, says that college made him feel like a functioning adult. I think I would agree.
Throughout the time I spent here, I found myself, in times of doubt, questioning whether or not college was worth it. When you’re pulling your hair out at four in the morning over a paper that has little significance to anything in the world but your grade, it’s hard to see a bigger point.
After everything I’ve done here, everyone I’ve met, I can honestly say I don’t know quite what my life would be like if UNCG hadn’t happened to it. So thanks for that, college – and all the people who were a part of it – I’ll be in touch.