2019 was one of the two calendar years where I was at Calvin for the entire year and it was normal. It was also the first year I spent the summer in Michigan. By the summer of 2019, three of my four semesters in school had been during the spring, which meant they really took place during the winter.
Throughout this time, the cold was miserable and I couldn’t imagine why people lived in Grand Rapids long-term. However, Grand Rapidians would always tell me, “The summer is actually really nice.”
As it turned out, the summer was quite nice, as was the rest of the year.
I co-led the Philippines Rangeela act for the first time that spring, and had weekly Bachelorette and pasta nights during the summer (I still can’t believe Hannah didn’t kick Luke P. off earlier). A few high school friends even visited Grand Rapids throughout the year. I got a new job that was closer to campus and that paid me more at the start of the school year that spared me from driving nearly thirty minutes for a job that didn’t even pay me eleven dollars an hour.
Rating: 9.5/10. Should have gotten a new job earlier.
I spent the first day of 2018 driving back to Grand Rapids. After dropping out immediately after my first semester in 2017, I found myself bored enough to talk myself into coming back to Calvin.
It was a struggle to readjust to a school that I never felt comfortable at in the first place, but thanks to the nagging of one of the few people I met in 2017, I joined Rangeela and surprised myself by having fun.
I spent the summer outside of Grand Rapids, but I spent the fall planning for the next Rangeela. This was also the year I started dating my girlfriend. Mahal kita, Sophs.
Rating: 8.75/10. Just because Timmer is convenient on campus doesn’t mean it’s a convenient place to live. Walking ten minutes to your car every time you want Taco Bell, especially in the winter in Grand Rapids, is not ideal. The food is cold by the time you get back to the dorms.
Somehow, the year I spent six months’ panic applying for jobs and wondering if I’d die working in retail actually wasn’t a bad year.
At the beginning of the year, I started posting on YouTube and worked a few hours a week with a YouTube channel. I saw Japanese Breakfast live for the first time that summer, which happened to coincide with both my birthday weekend and a friend visiting from out of town (who didn’t realize it was my birthday).
In July I got a part-time content writer position that finally gave me the ease of mind that I wouldn’t get stuck in retail forever, and thanks to this position, I finally started running again because I got a gym stipend.
Rating: 8/10. Don’t get sick right before you leave for Christmas. The stress of potentially having to cancel flight tickets is far more stressful than actually being sick.
Even with COVID, 2020 was actually a nice year for me personally. Before lockdowns, I led my second Rangeela act, and during lockdowns, my house binged Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Mob Psycho 100.
During the summer, I worked at Calvin cleaning empty classrooms and watching MLB games on the projectors. The house I lived in at the time had a really nice backyard where we often had bonfires, and my Christmas break was spent playing Super Smash Bros.
Rating: 7.5/10. If you have to accept a minimum-wage full-time summer position, do it cleaning a building with absolutely no foot traffic so that all that you’re cleaning is the dirt you tracked in with your own shoes.
My final semester of college was spent in classrooms where desks were six feet apart. I submitted my final exam in my bed. I got a B in a class I didn’t need or have time to take.
I got a full-time job a week after I finished classes, and then watched as that company went from eight employees to five before getting let go myself three months later. I spent the rest of the year panic-applying for jobs.
Still, I spent January playing Super Smash Bros., and I did finish up a writing piece I had tried to write for five years and happens to have been published on this website. That summer I learned that something I spent years avoiding was actually something I loved doing.
After having the worst haircut of my life, I decided to get a perm.
Rating: 7.25/10. Don’t accept a job with the first company that offers you a position out of college, especially if the head of the eight-person company reminds you of a shady televangelist.
Putting this year so low makes it seem like this year has been a disaster. It hasn’t. Overall, it’s been fairly decent. I was finally able to leave retail, I landed a full-time job, and I finally saw growth with my creative projects.
However, considering that will only go down as one of the two half-years on this list, it feels unfair to rank it above the full ones.
Rating: 7/10. Don’t rent a home with rodents in the walls; they will keep you up at night.
Like James Acaster, 2017 was the worst year of my life. Unlike Acaster, I didn’t get a Netflix special. Instead, I started at Calvin during a spring semester after never visiting Michigan. Big mistake.
As someone who’s more introverted and overthinks social situations, coming into a small school and adjusting while everyone is seemingly adjusted was a nightmare. I didn’t know where I belonged and I ended my first semester planning my dinners around times I knew my dorm floor wouldn’t be at the dining hall.
I foolishly had a job that took over an hour to get to by bus because I thought it would be easier to know I had a job when I went back to Virginia.
It was incredibly cold and I don’t think I saw sunlight for four months.
Rating: 0/10. Don’t come to Michigan in the cold, and don’t start your first college semester during the spring. They will put you in an orientation with transfer students you will never see again.
Mitchell Barbee graduated from Calvin University with a B.A. in writing in 2021. Originally from Boone, North Carolina, he is currently residing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He enjoys hanging out with the few friends who stayed, wearing grey hoodies, and hoping that he doesn’t get sucked into the nightly wormhole of watching a baseball game.