On September 22, 2005, my mom dropped me off in Mesa Court, helped lug my stuff to my new dorm and, bless her heart, probably said, “whew,” and pantomimed the sweat off her brow.
Her last kid made it to college. Or, more appropriately, her last kid was out of the house.
After leaving my new room, I gave her a hug at the front steps of the dorm, thanking her. She smiled at me and went back to the car. This moment was not tragic. Her house was only 30 minutes away and I still worked back home, so I would see her in a few days. One thing, however, sticks out from that moment.
She gave me a serene look of admiration and jokingly snickered, “Don’t blow it, Mark.”
Well, mom, I can honestly say, I did not blow it … completely.
Move-in day was really my first step and the best step I had taken at that point in my life. I was a typical freshman. I felt the inherent freedom of college and explored it diligently. That first year in the dorms was mind-boggling. The energy and time was similar to people that go on MTV’s “Real World” and just hang out in their house all day. We hung out extremely hard in that dorm. I took naps religiously, ate feasts with tables of friends and conversed with 50 different, unique people daily. Going to school was cake. I walked the five minutes to class, walked back, high-fived kids left and right, yelled at the bikers that, back then, zipped obnoxiously throughout Ring Road and came back to my safe haven.
Everything was golden.
It was that first year at UC Irvine that laid the foundation for who I am today and I have the people of Cielo, 2005-06, to thank for that. For anyone that has thrown up the C-L-O gang sign, just know you do, and always will, posses a big place in my heart. And for those of you from Cielo that have managed to send a text, slap some skin or get a beer with me, since that first year, you are my people.
With that being said, I must now move on to the rest of my college career. It’s funny; when I think about it now, my life has changed dramatically in the last few years, but the scene has stayed the same.
From my second year until now, I have been an immigrant in Newport Beach. 33rd Street is more than an address to me now. It is my credo. I have become a transplant, and as much as I despise the pompous culture of the city, the Anteater presence on the Peninsula has drowned the elitist muck. At any point, on any day, during any night, at least one UCI Newportian is down to do something. And because of that, my college experiences and memories are too vast to tell in this piece.
What I can tell you is this: whether I made a name for myself or made a fool of myself in Newport, I definitely made a college experience happen on 33rd Street in Newport Beach.
Which brings me to the point of this farewell. I am here to tell each and every person that I have met throughout my four years, thank you. Thank you for the long nights. Thank you for hugs from class to class. Thank you for lunches. Thank you for cheering with me. Thank you for playing intramurals on my team. Thank you for studying next to me, laughing at how delirious we were at four in the morning. Thank you for the BBQ’s on the beach. Thank you for the bike rides down the Peninsula. Thank you for the advice, good or bad. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for your snickers, your smiles and your smirks. Thank you, to my professors, for showing my path. Thank you to anyone who doubted, praised or did both. Thank you, for answering my calls. Thank you, UCI, for giving me a reputable alma mater.
And finally, I must thank the following people: Jeffe, Sean, Alex, Nick, Steve, Jeffe, all Cielo, Iris, Jimbo, Chris, Ed, Timbo, Drew, Danny, Smalls, D. Lef, Chris N., Umar, men’s volleyball, the volleyball locals, every single member of this New University staff and finally my best man, Andrew. Thank you all for going big with me.
Also, my family needs to hear this. I would be a beach bum back in Redondo if it were not for you guys. Support is an understatement in the Ratto Family. This degree is for you, Mom and Dad.
And last but not least: my girlfriend, Liz. You are beautiful. Simply, purely, beautiful. You are, and I am serious, too attractive for me and yet you stick with your man. My gratitude for everything you do in my life is unending. I cannot wait to spend the next three years with you.
And finally, UCI. With every fault it may have, has been the greatest time of my life. Thank you, Anteaters.
Filed Under: Opinion