Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 10, 1997

An Undergraduate
Life: Working Through
Muddy Times

Stacey Patton
Editorial Intern
When I was at boarding school I always looked forward to returning after the winter semester. Spring semester was always light-hearted, fun and less stressful. I enjoyed the warm weather and having classes outside. This year, the spring semester of my freshman year has gotten off to a cold, rainy start.

Last week I was riding my brand new Diamondback bike down the path near Mudd Hall. It rained the day before so it was still wet and slippery. I was in between classes so I decided to check my mailbox at the AMRs. Trying to be a daredevil, I flipped over the front of my bike when I tried to jump the curb. The front tire crashed into the curb, and I landed face first in a huge mud puddle.

My entire being seemed to be muddy. My bright yellow Abercrombie jacket was covered in mud. And I even had globs of mud stuck in all my pockets. My white sneakers were filthy, and my face was muddy, too. Worst of all, there was a large group of students walking along that same path. Some people asked me if I was OK. Other people gave me a look of pity. Some people simply laughed. As I lay there in that puddle of mud I felt so humiliated, and I felt like I was next to nothing.

Eventually I picked myself up off the ground. Although my hands were freezing and my fingertips were bleeding, I walked with my head held high determined to check my mail. I had no problem working my way through the crowds of students that day. But when I saw how my peers looked at me and my dripping wet clothes, I didn't feel like a freshman in college. I felt like a young incompetent child who couldn't even ride a bike without falling off.

It was just one of those days that never seemed to improve. Later on that same day I spent three hours in the library doing research for my sociology class. This semester I have been studying the Zulu African people for a lengthy research project due at the end of the semester. When I walked out of the Eisenhower Library, I discovered that my bike had been stolen. Someone actually broke the lock and took my brand new bike. I can't believe that people can just take things that they know don't belong to them. My first reaction was to go play investigator and get my bike back. But then I felt it was hopeless. I figured that whoever took it had probably sold it already.

While walking back to my room I felt so frustrated and so mad I couldn't even think straight. But the worst was yet to come. I reached deep into my pocket to pull out my keys and everything fell out. Quarters, pennies, pens, little pieces of paper. And my J-card. It just so happened that I was standing right next to a sewage drain. Most of my coins flipped down the drain. And so did my J-card. I would have to pay $30 to get a new one.

I just had to laugh to myself as I sat on the edge of the curb looking down into the sewage drain. I came to the conclusion that I was having a really bad day.

Luckily, I haven't had many days like this so far this semester. I guess any experience worth going through has its ups and downs. That day I was learning to deal with the downs.

Into the spring semester my luck has improved, but it seems that rain has decided to make me its constant companion. Track season has begun, and the first few practices have been cold, soggy and soaking. I am, however, looking forward to participating in my usual events: the long jump, javelin, 100-meter sprint and the 400-meter sprint. This year we have the largest team ever: more than 70 students. We are looking forward to going to the Penn Relays in early April. But I know my perseverance through the weather will pay off down the road.

During my last track season I had great success despite the fact that I had torn cartilage in both knees. As captain of the team at Lawrenceville I broke the school record in the javelin at 129 feet, and I was the New Jersey State javelin champion. I was also second in the state for the long jump at 17 feet 6 inches. As I reflect back on my success in my senior year, I remember what it was like to be a freshman on the track team in high school. A lot of my teammates were faster and could outjump and outthrow me. This season I will experience again what it is like to be a freshman on the track team.

Practicing on the same field as the lacrosse team has been a real challenge as well. When we see lacrosse balls whisking across the track, it forces us to run faster or deal with our situation of limited space.

At the beginning of the semester I went through a series of interviews for a summer internship at The Sun. I had doubts as to whether I would get the job because there were 400 applicants, most of whom were college juniors and seniors. Although the editors explained to me that they never hired freshmen, I must have done something right because they bent the rules and gave me the job.

I finally completed my first novel, "Somebody's Child." I spent many weeks revising the book, and my New York literary agent will be submitting it to publishers next week. Completing the book has been both cathartic and rewarding. Now I am working on my second novel, "Can I Get A Witness?" which I started late last year. I have also begun a book of short stories, titled "The Backstreets," which deal with the darkest sides of reality in the inner city.

Some of my classes are quite interesting and some ungodly boring. But I am learning from each, which remains the most fascinating part of my freshman experience.

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