Today Carolina will play for the NCAA Men's Basketball Title, and I can't help but reminisce about my own time at UNC during the fervor that is a run for a National Championship. Almost twelve years ago, I was a college freshman. I knew two people on campus, and let me tell you, two acquaintances on a campus of 30,000 is not a lot of people. That's almost twice as many people on one college campus as lived in Mitchell County. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement.
Now, my parents will tell you that I didn't come home once my first semester. They thought I was living it up, having the time of my life away from mom and dad. And it's true, I didn't come home a lot that first year, but not for the reasons they thought. I was incredibly homesick and lonely, but going home for the weekend felt like giving up. I didn't want to seem like a failure - I had wanted to go to Carolina my whole life, and damn it, I was going to succeed there.
I realize now that probably 90% of any freshman class feels this way the first semester of college, but no one told me that. But eventually, I did make friends. Some have become just facebook acquaintances and a few are still as close as the day we became friends. But that's life. Whatever has happened to bring us closer together or farther apart in our adult lives, these wonderful people remain hugely important to me.
In 2005, my (newish) group of friends and I gathered in my dorm, where I believe there was a cake and 99 Bananas, and shenanigans ensued, and I ended up keeping an orange road cone for the next four years to commemorate the event.
Those eighteen year old kids who shared crossword puzzles at lunch and stole road cones during a National Championship are now approaching thirty. We are husbands and wives and parents and friends and have lives far richer than what we could have dreamed in college. These wonderful people are some are some of the dearest friends I've ever been blessed with knowing.
For me, that National Championship was about more than basketball - it was when I knew that the group of people crowded in my dorm room were really my best friends, and that college wasn't going to be so hard knowing they'd be there with me.
So tonight, we'll all watch the game, and cheer on our beloved Heels together in spirit, and then maybe go outside and light something on fire in remembrance of our glory days.