Misadventures of a Patriot

by Denisha, a Patriot Blogger

Are you there, Readers? It’s me, Denisha.

Ah, college. So I’ve been told by everyone from my old middle school principal (Good Ol’ Mrs. What’s-Her-Name) to a random bystander whom I happened to be talking to while waiting for a Mocha Cookie Crumble from Starbucks (I swear I’m addicted to that stuff…but I regret nothing!) that they are supposedly the best four years of my life. I’m not sure how big of an exaggeration that may or may not be, but it’s certainly exciting.

It finally all hit me at once, as my boss handed me my final paycheck in the beginning of August (that was when I had decided to stop working so that I could have the extra time to pack and cry and spend time with friends and family and cry while packing…), when I realized the bittersweet feeling of it all. There’s certainly the sweet, sweet smell of freedom to look forward to; seriously, it’s so close I can almost taste it, but there’s also saying goodbye to friends and family, packing (which is not exactly the most fun thing in the world when your room looks like some sort of weather disaster blew through it)…oh yeah, and that thing that we continually get lectured by our parents…something about responsibility and all that jazz.

For me, change is something that takes some time for me to adjust to. So all of this plus the nerves and excitement that constantly flood my emotions whenever I think about college equals a weekend trip with my best friend, Eileen, who will also be going to college in the fall (she’s TCC/ Liberty University bound, though). We have been best friends for years, so it feels unreal to know that we’re going to be 3 and half hours away in less than a month. People always tell us that a friendship like ours will be just fine despite the distance, but it’s moments like these when you just have to stop and think “thank you, God, for Skype and cell phones.” It’s completely unrealistic to think that our friendship will stay exactly the same because we’re both going to grow and mature, but as Randy Newman once sang in Toy Story, ‘when you’re miles and miles from your nice warm bed, you just remember what your old pal said…you’ve got a friend in me.’ And if a toy cowboy can stay friends with a boy even when he goes to college, I have hope that we can too. If any of you have ever seen the TV show Psych, our friendship is something like Shawn and Gus’s friendship, so there’s never a dull moment.

Thus, we packed up our bags after our final day of work and headed for Williamsburg, VA for some much needed R&R for the weekend and COLLEGE SHOPPING! I hope everyone took advantage of tax-free weekend, we certainly did. And it brought with us a series of misadventures and realizations about the life of a broke college student (well, at least for me).

Lesson #1: Sometimes, beggars CAN be choosers.

We had a long drive that consisted of jamming out to our road trip soundtrack of High School Musical (“We’re soaring, flying, there’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach…” anyone remember those days?), classic Disney songs from The Lion King to The Princess and the Frog, Nat King Cole, Norah Jones, etc., singing along loudly and dancing to each song, which earned us strange stares from the drivers that got stuck beside us in the traffic…but hey, at least we were providing them comedic relief and entertainment, and we were entertaining ourselves in the process! It was originally a one-hour drive, but when you have a GPS and yet we’re STILL directionally-challenged, that’s when we have a problem and lonnnnggg drive ahead of us. We arrived at the hotel that we had booked beforehand online after about a two and a half hour drive, eager to finally get a rest after sitting in a car for so long.

But of course, it’s never that easy. We thought we had gotten a deal, we walked in with smiles on our faces, got our room keys, and walked into the room that we paid $42 a night for.

Sub-lesson: don’t expect much when you book a room for $42 a night. You really do get what you pay for.

As soon as we walked in, disappointment clouded our faces. Now, we’re not picky people, I’ve stayed in some sketchy places before, but this was just not right. Not only did the room look like it hadn’t been cleaned in a while, but there was hair on the towels…and on the sheets. And the chairs had some kind of stains on them. We went back down to the front desk and they said they would change the sheets for us while we went out to dinner. Yay?

So what did we do? Pack up our things and try to find another hotel. But here’s the real kicker: at each hotel we went to, when we told the person at the front desk which hotel we were staying at, he/she would groan or laugh and look at us with sympathy. All we could do at that point was laugh unil our sides hurt. So everybody knew about this place? Sadly, we did not get the memo.

Luckily, we found a nice Days Inn right near Colonial Williamsburg, an area that I absolutely adore. I love seeing all the local shops and the city bustling with tourist excitement. And brownie points for the Days Inn, they had a The Cat in the Hat sticker on the headboard of my bead, and I absolutely love Dr. Seuss, so I was incredibly happy about that. And I loved the historic paintings that were above our two beds. So we paid the extra money (yay for military discounts!), and unloaded our luggage into our new hotel, getting a refund at the hotel we had almost stayed at before.

Even as I’m typing this now, I think back and laugh about it. Sometimes, it’s worth it to pay the $85 extra for a better hotel, even on a college student’s budget. And I’m not going to say the name of the previous hotel we almost stayed at, but the name rhymes with Graveldodge.

And so day one of our weekend had finally begun and ended, and we had already had our first misadventure.

Saturday was shopping day. Shopping for college doesn’t just mean dorm supplies and decorations, it also means clothes shopping!  I mean, it was tax-free weekend, you can’t beat that! So we grabbed some breakfast at the continental breakfast that the Days Inn offered and headed to a little shopping area full of outlets that is called the Williamsburg Premium Outlets (original, ain’t it?) that we decided we would make our first stop. Outlets are a great place to shop for clothes AND dorm essentials/decorations.

Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid to try new styles! You might be surprised at what you find. And whatever you find, dress it up creatively and make it your own!

Apparently, everyone else had the same idea as us. It was packed, and you could smell the sales in the air. One thing that Eileen and I definitely agreed on was the idea of trying new styles. College is somewhat of a fresh start, so fresh start = fresh, new styles. I was always the jeans and a t-shirt/hoodie person, and I’ll definitely still be a jeans and t-shirt/hoodie person because hey, it’s comfortable! But that also meant that I wasn’t going to shy away from all the dresses, heels, and skirts just because I didn’t wear them very often. Senior year of high school was when I really started wearing more clothes like that, and I’m excited to expand on it and make it more into my own. And you know what; I ended up buying a lot of different styles that I wouldn’t have even thought about wearing three years ago. So yeah, I like to think I’ve come a long way. And not to mention, I bought quite a few green and gold outfits…I’m all ready to show my school spirit! Now if only I could get the words to the fight song right…

Sidenote: I’ve fallen in love with knit hats and scarves; they are definitely something that I’ll be pulling out a lot when fall and winter arrive!

After shopping for a bit and buying a few new outfits and clothes, we realized how unreasonably expensive some of these places still were, even with the sales.

Lesson #3: 70% off of a lot is STILL a lot.

I tried to tell myself, “sure, a sale off of a jacket that’s $169 doesn’t seem that bad…”of course; it still leaves $50 for a jacket that I’m sure I could find a thrift store for $5, and for $50, I could get two dresses or two cardigans, or three blouses instead…it’s all about making money stretch and being a savvy shopper, which is something I had to learn to do fairly quick. It got to the point where we would gauge whether or not we could afford the things in the store by looking at the clothes in the window. Yeah, first world problems, but it was actually kind of amusing. Eileen would see a cute outfit in the window of a store and say, “Should we even go in?” Of course, we went into pretty much all of the stores, and there was a 50/50 chance that we would find clothes at reasonable prices…scratch that, maybe 60/40.

Once you hit that age when your parents stop paying for things for you, it’s time to learn how to shop smart, which brings me to this…

Lesson #4: Don’t buy something for an unreasonable price just because you can.

The cardigan in the picture above was $50 at one of the outlets we went to. We saw the same one at a different store for $21.98. Now I ask…would you pay $50 for this cardigan?

So now that I’ve demonstrated how much of a cheapskate I am (I promise I’m not, I’m just learning how to be a smart shopper…and probably failing because I admit I splurged a bit for the sake of retail therapy), we left the outlets somewhere around mid-afternoon after running into a fellow Patriot there (and he was even a graduate of Deep Creek, which is where I graduated from!) and spent the rest of the day relaxing, which was something that I found I really needed.

Now, one’s idea of relaxing may be curling up in bed with popcorn and watching Netflix all night, or soaking in a hot tub, and while both of those are great things to do, we walked down Colonial Williamsburg. Just seeing all the magnificent architecture and breathing in the history behind it are enough to fill me with serenity. I’ve been there multiple times since I was a child, and it never gets old. There is a spot in Williamsburg with this giant tree that was large enough to sit on and read. I used to climb all over it when I was a kid…it made me feel like i could do anything. If any of you have ever been to Colonial Williamsburg, you should know which tree I’m talking about. And if cannons hadn’t been shooting off about 50 feet from it for a performance, it would have been perfectly quietly enough.

So instead, we sat on a bench for a bit and read the two Zac Efron books that we had brought with us. We call them Zac Efron books because he’s on the cover of them, and to be honest it’s probably a part of the reason we bought them. I brought Me and Orson Welles (terrific book, by the way, I learned a lot about Orson Welles and a gained a little insight into the world of theatre and theatre production), and Eileen brought The Lucky One (I haven’t read that one yet, I’m just now getting into Nicholas Sparks novels, but I hear this one’s pretty good). Reading is one of the most relaxing things to me. When I find a book that I’m really into, it’s like I can forget about the crazy world out there and focus on the crazy world going on in the printed words in front of me.

Lesson #5: Take the necessary time out for yourself.

First semester of college is about balancing and pacing yourself with the vast amount of possibilities at Mason. I definitely don’t want to overwhelm myself. So maybe it sounds a little weird, but I’ve already found a spot at Mason where I can go and relax, read, write, and just be inspired by…life.

Okay…maybe I’ve been reading too much Thoreau and Emerson lately.

After a very eventful Saturday in which we STILL got lost multiple times (maybe I should have a GPS on me at all times in Fairfax?), we went back to our hotel and watched some movie on ABC Family and practically collapsed into our respective beds. So yeah, we were tired.

Sunday we checked out of our hotel and had brunch at one of the multple pancake houses located in Williamsburg (now I love pancakes just as much as the next person…but everywhere you go, you’re surrounded by pancake houses!), then headed back to the Creek (in Chesapeake). And after an awesome weekend trip with my best friend, I walked through the door of my house and was greeted by emails from professors and the bill for my tuition payment and emails from my dad about paying for my books and a still completely messy room…so much for relaxation.

So all in all, I truly did have an enjoyable weekend. I found some amazing deals for my college and dorm attire, I got some much-needed R&R and finally got to sit down and read this book that I’ve been wanting to read for weeks, and I got to spend it with my best friend. And these are the experiences that I’m going to take with me to college…and hey, they’ll make great stories to tell the kids one day about all my misadventures.

But with move-in day closing in, I found myself re-reading the two fortunes from fortune cookies I had received when we went and got Chinese food. (I hate the taste of fortune cookies, but I do enjoy reading the fortunes the come with them…who doesn’t?), a sense of excitement for this new chapter in my life and the plans that God has for me washing over me each time I see them…

My fortunes hit the nail right on the head. There’s a world full of new opportunities just waiting for us at Mason. And I, for one, am excited to open the door for them. Much like this weekend, college is what you make it.

Lesson #6: Hakuna Matata. 🙂

And now that I’ve proven myself to be incredibly long-winded (so thank you to whoever took the time to read this all the way through! It really means a lot to me!), by the way, I’m Denisha, and I’m one of your newest Patriot bloggers. 🙂