I remember it like it was yesterday: a house packed with college students; the smell of sweat filling the air; voices shouting, off-key singing, adrenaline pumping. We were bringing the house down. Like way down.
This may sound like the start of a frat party (well, at least the ones I have seen in stupid teenage movies — you know, the ones where the nerdy girl gets a makeover and the jock accidentally falls in love with her). But it wasn’t. It was spring break my sophomore year. I signed up for a mission trip to Long Beach, Mississippi. It had been a year since Hurricane Katrina, but the devastation in that area was still quite severe.
Before you write me off as an Angelina Jolie wannabe, I must be upfront that my motives were not all Mother Teresa. You want full disclosure? Here it is: the guys that signed up ahead of me were cute. Like “I will gut a house to be in your presence” cute. Sitting around my hometown all week also was not appealing.
But back to the packed house. I have never, before or since, been a part of such hard labor. They make demolition look so easy on TV, but it’s exhausting. I, along with several other girls on the trip, had been working tirelessly to bring down one of the walls. In order to rally the troops (and because I had been recently heartbroken), I said, “Girls, I want you to think of someone who has done you wrong. On the count of three, I want you to shout their name and sledgehammer this wall as hard as you can.”
One. Two. Three.
It was a scene out of the movie “300.” Even shy girls were charging the wall like they were seizing an enemy army. The wall came down before we could even think of a second ex-boyfriend. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
It’s memories like this that come to mind when I read articles like the one released this week naming Harding as one of the nation’s “lamest party schools.” I can’t say that I gasped in disbelief when I read this. I simply thought to myself, “The author of this study obviously never attended one of my karaoke parties on first floor Pryor.” A front row performance of my roommate singing the high part of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” would have been enough to drop us off the lame list.
When people ask about the idiosyncrasies of attending a private Christian university, I always tell them the same thing: “You will find exactly what you’re looking for. But Harding makes it easier to find the good.”
If you want to party, you will find a party. If you want to use your youth to make the world a better place, you will be stuffed in a 15-passenger van for hours with complete strangers.
Like life, college is what you make it. It can be a time of maximum growth; it can be a time of world travel; it can be a time to fully prepare for life beyond school. Or it can be four years you barely remember.
Lame is not bound by one definition; it is not measured by alcohol intake, lack of curfews and a lively party circuit. A lame college experience is completely dependent on the student’s chosen experiences.
And as for me?
I had the time of my life.
Ashton (Reely) Ray graduated from Harding in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism and in 2010 with a Master of Arts in Business Administration.