Day 14 – A Song That Reminds me of a Time and Place in College – #100DaysofHigherEd

Today’s subject is going to be fun! And I remember every moment of why this is the song that reminds me of my college days. I graduated from college at East Carolina in 1995. It was a magical time for me. My whole life was ahead of me, I was really killing it in school, and I had just accepted a graduate assistantship at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. My girlfriend (now wife) and I were falling for each other in a big way and we were planning a life together. Things were really looking up.

Earlier that spring we had gone to Florida for Spring Break. We had a great time with friend and piling into a room made for four with like eight college kids. There in Cocoa Beach we met some college students from Pennsylvania, and they introduced me to two things, Yuengling Beer and Rusted Root. For those of you who do not remember, Rusted Root was a bluesy, hippie band in the mid-90s ala The Dave Matthews Band. They were literally the perfect college band for the moment. And their summer hit “Send Me on My Way” was everywhere. We listened to that song no less than 1,325,982 times that week and it kept going.

When we got back to Greenville it was in heavy rotation at all our house parties and was the anthem of our spring. When we hosted our graduation party at a friend’s house there was this moment that will remember forever. It was toward the end of the night and our friends from Pennsylvania had come down with a couple of cases of Yuengling (it was not sold in North Carolina yet) and we all gathered in the middle of the living room floors and danced and sang at the top of our lungs. Laughing and carrying on. It was the kind of moment I never wanted to end. But that was not the end of that song in my college experience. Twice it came on in the car in just the right time.

The first was when I took a trip out to visit Nicole. She has taken a job as a server at a restaurant on the Outer Banks of North Carolina called the Froggy Dog. It was your typical beach town seafood restaurant known for happy hour oysters and shrimp and fried flounder plates. If you have not driven the Outer Banks, make it a priority now. It is one of America’s most beautiful drives. Well, the song came on as I was entering into Avon, North Carolina, where Nicole lived. I had the windows down, the air was salty and bright, and as I pulled up to the house Nicole was there with a smile and kiss. It was one of those moments I may think about on my death bed. It was a moment that reminds you how beautiful life is.  

Finally, the song kept up once more that summer. In early June I had to leave North Carolina and get myself to Carbondale, Illinois to start my Graduate Assistantship and summer classes. I was in the higher ed program at SIU-C and I was eager to start my life. The song came on the local radio station just as I was turning off the highway at Marion, Illinois and heading toward Carbondale. Until then I had never been to that area of the U.S. and I took the job sight unseen because I wanted the adventure. As the road opened to cornfields, and lakes, and the green of the trees I knew that my life was ready to begin. I had made the right choice and it was all going to be okay.

And that is what a great song can do. It can remind you that it is going to be okay. It can be there when you are sad, proud, or just looking to have a good time. For me, this song meant a passage. The lyrics are a little on the nose but that is fine by me. A great college anthem needs to be obvious in its presentation because it helps you connect the dots. So, I wonder what your college song is and why? I am sure there are several songs but what is that one?

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