I know small rooms
From a dorm atop the rolling hills of the Palouse to an RV dealership’s storage room shadowed in the Appalachia – I’ve lived in a few.
At my best, I called a five-man nook at Sigma Phi Epsilon in heart of Washington State’s campus home. And my worst, a newlywed friend’s basement in the holler of Spokane; it’s where I am now.
I used to only come here for Gonzaga hoops with my dad but after my school shut down campus, I ran out of options like a washed-up journeyman quarterback.
“Go home,” the university said.
But I already was.
Never mind the fact that my childhood house is up for sale, or that my family-of-four lives between as many addresses – Pullman took in me in when no else would. And now, its sweet southern comfort now left rendered by a pandemic.
The saying goes, once more into the fray.
This is lonely
Washington State went on lockdown a few weeks ago with Gov. Inslee recently extending the stay-home order over a full month into May. I hope I’m not in the minority when I say I’ve categorically and unequivocally abided.
Likewise, I’m equally lonely.
I’m supposed to be chewing a bag of dill pickle seeds at a ballpark. Instead, I’m waking up a wink before noon, limping through online Zoom lectures from bed, scrolling twitter 30 times a day, and debating the ethics of Tiger King with my buddy’s wife just to get some adrenaline pumping.
I have no answers, no wisdom, no escape. And despite my situation being relatable, I doesn’t feel any less lonely. Because after I finish the fourth Netflix Docuseries in as many days, I’m left in the same spot I started – pinned down by four walls in small room.
The classroom, my old friend
I’ll accept an unpaid internship on the other half of the country and figure out the logistics later. It’s just the kind of person I am.
I’m not going to pretend like this ambition leaks into the classroom, because it doesn’t. In high school, I had the same science teacher for three straight years – she made an effort to get me out of her class because I drove her crazy.
By the time I got to college though, I admittedly took it a bit more seriously. After all, it costed some serious coin this time around. Falling in love with my studies – journalism and media production – had something to do with it too.
Writing sports packages as a freshman, I created my own online media company a year later. I then sold it as a junior to focus my time in broadcast.
My work outside the classroom has always meant more to me – I simply cared about it. Which is why it’s ironic I miss the classroom more than anything.
But beggars can’t be choosers.
At this point, I’ll give anything to sit in front of a professor and listen – anything to get out of this small room.
Zoom? Never met him
Some professors hand out a passing grade for fogging a mirror; meanwhile, others are downshifting toward the finish line like it’s the final lap of the Indy 500. No one is on the same page forcing students to jockey between bookmark.
Sure, a professor or two have been outstanding amid all this; however, a chemistry student can’t do a worthwhile lab from an iPad. And you’re out of your mind if you think I’m anchoring a student newscast from my pajamas – respect to the few who have.
If you’re anything like me and your productivity isn’t quite there, listen loud and clear – that’s okay. Take a bit to worry about yourself as most of us haven’t had the time to do that in years.
Because believe me, that small empty room won’t look any different despite the virtual background you paint it with in Zoom.
Shelter from the storm
I woke up today on a floored mattress – an upgrade from the sectional couch a week ago.
I had an unread text messages from a fraternity brother I hadn’t seen in months:
“Hey Andrew, just wanted to let you know I’ve been thinking a lot about you man. I hope isolation is going well, or as well as it can go. How are things going? Finding any fun things to pass the time?”
For a brief moment, I forgot how lonely I’d been. And for about a minute, I was distracted from the plain white walls I’m convicted are slowly creeping in on me.
But atop the third floor of Sigma Phi Epsilon at Washington State, I had always come home to a small room. A small room with my four best friends, memories lasting a lifetime, and support money can’t buy.
Confident and self-assured, I have few fears. My biggest – never getting that room back.
You see, a small room isn’t the problem; it never really was. It’s the people – or lack thereof – making the moments.
And with this quarantine, my small room has shifted – again – for the worse away from those I love.
Once more into the fray.
To my brothers at WA Alpha, and SigEps across the nation, we’ll once again get to leave these small rooms. And when we do, perhaps then we’ll finally understand the true value our small rooms back on campus hold.
Because I still can’t even define it. I can’t tell somebody who isn’t a SigEp what it’s like. There’s just something infectious that happens over time through the day to day cycle. Something infectious about being pushed to a new level of being. Something infectious about its ideals.
And for most of us, it happens within the walls of a small room – often not even knowing when it’s happening. That’s where we get the bug.
My small room – No. 17 at 610 NE Colorado Street – changed my life. And the people I’ve shared it with for the past five semesters – irreplaceable.
Perhaps a small empty room is a gift allowing us to appreciate the times of when it was once full. The times when life was unparalleled. The times when it made it us into who we are today.
Take my word on this. After all, I know small rooms.