Chapter 1: The Freshman
“Gooood morning to all of you lovely people out there in the world! It's your friendly neighborhood musician Shania Sterling coming to you from the gateway to scenic southern Indiana. I have finally finished moving in, room tour coming your way because, as promised, I will be taking you on this college experience… experience? No… journey. Curses."
I stare at the blinking red dot showing the video is still recording on my camera. Did I want to use this take? No. I really need to redo it. I push the little red button and stop recording. I close my eyes and take a deep breath in, hold it, and exhale while I collect my thoughts.
As many times as I have done this before, it still feels weird when I need to redo a vlog introduction. It should be simple, right? Genuine content is what I'm known for. Well, that and my music.
I guess even the best social media stars out there need to take a second and retake a shot. I sigh and let myself fall backward onto my bed so I can stare at the ceiling. The mottled white above me looks like it was redone a few times recently. I can see the roller marks from where the old paint was covered by the new.
I close my eyes and listen to the sounds of the dorm room. No roommate, so no weird clattering in the kitchen or the adjacent room. I hear footsteps above me and someone's radio alarm below me.
I smile, grateful to be alone together with hundreds of new people. No doubt some of the other students would recognize me, but I was holding out hope it wouldn't be like high school. Shine, a short form video social media site, how all of this, my music and media career, took off four years ago. I always had musical talent, but I never thought anything like this fame would happen to me.
What was once a single video of a jam session between my friends, and I exploded on Shine and the rest is history. The analytics from the videos I already posted skyrocketed and demands for more became my driving force; well, that and my mother, but at least she's supportive.
Ever since then, it's been tours and studios, concerts and rehearsals and the all important album releases to stay with the trends.
Everything changed, and not all for the better. Sometimes I wonder if I would've had a normal life if that video hadn't gone viral. But having a normal life was a long-dead dream at this point. Why couldn't I just be a musician who people knew about without all the fuss of being known?
I roll lazily onto my side and stare at the wall. I need to get going if I want this video posted and make it to my first class on time. Or I could just skip my first class. Is this what it means to be a responsible adult? Do things you don't want to do?
I guess I've been doing that for a while then.
I clear my head, sit back up, and press the record button.
“Good morning world wide web! I'm Shania Sterling, full-time musician, full-time social media addict, and now full-time student at Jacobs School of Music at the Indiana University in Bloomington. That's right! Officially a college student now. I finished moving in, expect something fun for that, and I'm on my way to my first class of the day. Feeling nervous, but it's all good. Let's go explore campus," I say with a smile.
I click the red button to stop recording and set the camera in my lap. That take felt more like me. I force myself off of my bed, already wanting to curl back under the comforter and take a nap, to look at my reflection in the mirror.
Short sleeve flowy blue shirt and a white skort with small blue flowers to match. My sun kissed sparkling amber hair falls in waves to my mid back. Should I put it up into a ponytail? No. I can practically hear my mother scolding me for even thinking it.
Is that something in my eye? I lean closer to the mirror and stare into my pale green eyes, catching the hazel gold in my iris which perfectly lines my pupil. Sunflowering, I think is what it's called. I rub my eyes and look again. Nothing.
Now I'm just stalling.
One last deep breath and I'm off to my first class, slinging my backpack onto one shoulder and locking my door behind me. The hallway feels fresh and clean, which I know won't last for very long. There are a few other students further down the hall, but they don't mind me passing them on my way to the stairs.
I pass the main room, giving a wave to the students manning the front desk, before stepping outside. The warm, autumn air carries on a breeze that tosses my hair over my shoulder. For a moment, I'm reminded of a photoshoot I did a few months ago with a wind machine that did the same thing to my hair.
I inhale deeply and cherish the warmth in the air. The breeze brushes against my cheek as the sun warms my skin. I'm going to miss the summer. I walk past the natural sciences building, past the spot where I had orientation, and finally make it to my first class.
One thing I like about this campus is it feels like the New England area - tall structures that possess an industrial feel with small northern town charm. There are people all around and, thankfully, I make it to my class and find a nice, quiet spot to sit down before I feel the eyes of my classmates on me.
One of them, a slightly husky strawberry-blonde haired boy, approaches first and smiles bashfully. He has freckles for days on the tops of his cheeks and soft blue eyes.
“Hi, um, sorry to bother you, but you're Shania Sterling, right?" he asks. I smile and nod.
“That's me," I reply.
“No way!" He turns back to his friends and makes a face. “See? Told you!" He looks back at me and eagerly sits in the vacant seat next to me. “I'm Henry Collins. I heard you were coming here, but it's literally insane I have a class with you."
Unfortunately, Henry's voice carries and, since the professor isn't here yet, I'm swarmed. I hear a few dozen names come at me all at once and politely sign a couple of autographs rather than take pictures with anyone. I notice there is one student who sits in the back of the classroom who didn't approach me, and part of me thinks I know why. Sadly, I don't get the chance to investigate before the professor walks in.
Meeting people is definitely one of my favorite parts of the job, but it takes the right setting to make it special. If everyone weren't so eager to introduce themselves, I would've had a chance to ask them some questions and be personable. I'll have to try next class. For now, I pull out my tablet and start taking notes, all the while keeping my notebook open as I scribble down some lyrics that take root in my mind.
~Seen and invisible, breakable, divisible. Take what you want from me. That's what I want you to believe. ~
The moment class ends, I dart out of the room and hustle to my next course where I repeat the process four more times.
Exhausted, I finally have a moment to myself. When did I last eat something? I shove my headphones into my ears and start walking around campus, wandering until I see the campus café on the corner.
I have some time before I need to be at my vocal lesson, and this would be a fun place to post an update on my first day. I swing the door open, my senses immediately overwhelmed with the smell of coffee and slightly overdone pastries.
The ceiling is industrial with painted black beams and exposed wiring. Mason jar lights hang above several light wooden tables. There are also fist sized bulbs wrapped around the beams which cling to the interior structure. The coffee machines releasing steam and powerful vapors which could caffeinate anyone who just so happened to walk by.
There are a few people in the corner and a busy line at the moment. Thankfully, there's an unoccupied one-person seat near the window by the back right. Perfect. Right at that time, The Verve popped up on my playlist playing, “The Freshmen." It is a little older, but still one of my favorites. I slide into the seat, making myself comfortable when my heart stops in my chest. My cheeks are instantly rosy-red, and my body feels jittery all over.
There, working in the café, is Felix MacKay, the guy I've had a crush on since middle school.