Previous chapter: Humble Beginnings
Chapter Two: The University of Florida
Gainesville was an entirely different place from my hometown, filled with people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds. The city revolved around the University of Florida, spreading outwards from it in a grid. Apartment complexes replaced the forests and farmlands at the rate of a few acres a year.
Upon entering the city, the first thing one noticed is the abundance of the Florida Gators’ team colors: orange and blue. Car decals, store signs, billboards, graffiti, buildings, lamp posts, and residents bore orange and blue colors to show support for their team. I sometimes mused that if the city had a devastating earthquake, the rubble would be orange and blue chunks.
I lived south of the university, off a road called Old Archer in an apartment complex called Hidden Village. It was hidden, all right, surrounded by forests. It had a small pond next to the entrance with a resident alligator in it.
I was twenty-one-year-old junior and thought I had everything figured out. My goal was to graduate with a literature degree and become an English teacher in Japan. I took Japanese classes to further my preparation. I envisioned an extravagant and fun-filled life in Japan.
Socially, college was the same as high school for me. Little had changed except that I now had the freedom to purchase alcohol and get into nightclubs, neither of which I took advantage of.
I spent my twenty-first birthday going to classes and working late. The only person who called me to wish me a happy birthday was my mom. Other college students either had wild stories from their twenty-first birthdays, or could not even remember anything at all. I remember finishing up all of my homework.
My job was “fitness supervisor” at the university gym, a fancy name for my minimum wage position. In reality, the job consisted of checking student IDs, cleaning windows and mirrors, wiping sweat off of benches, and racking stray weights. I loved the work at first because it was easy, but quickly grew bored of the monotony.
Once again, dating was a disaster. Not because I was too busy or for a lack of trying. I cut my hair and wore nicer clothes, but I lacked confidence in myself and didn’t think I was good-looking. The ultimate verdict was that I was simply unsuccessful with women, mastering the ability to get into the “friend zone.” The few girls I did date soon got bored of me and the so-called relationship would dissolve to nothing. All in all, one hand was more than sufficient in tallying my sexual encounters.
The party culture eluded me, too. U.F. was ranked as one of the top party campuses in the United States, but weekends, I’d stay in my apartment and play video games with my roommate.
My saving grace was bodybuilding, a new hobby of mine. I lived at the gym when I wasn’t working there. Weight lifting became more than a routine; it was a religion. I memorized its scripture: reps, sets, super-sets, squats, presses, deadlifts. Whenever I wasn't in class, I was in the gym bench pressing, or squatting. I bought books and magazines on bodybuilding, and studied them more than the class textbooks. The gym became my hangout spot. I made a few friends and felt welcomed.
I became fairly muscular. I trained my legs as much as my upper body and developed a symmetrical form. A lot of people began complimenting me and asking me for advice on how to train, and this boosted my self-confidence. I even competed in a bench press competition at U.F. and placed in the top fifteen.
However, I was now at 5’10” and weighed 170 lbs. Even though a lot of other guys in the gym said that they wanted to look like me, I still felt unsatisfied and skinny. I wanted to grow massive like Arnold Schwarzenegger when he won the Mr. Olympia title. I wanted to go on stage in front of a crowd and win a trophy for my physique. Deep down, I knew that my slender frame limited me from ever attaining the Herculean size of the pros. I accepted this fact and continued to train to achieve the best physique my body would allow.
I banked all of my future excitement on Japan. I heard stories from people who’d been English teachers there that told of newfound popularity; some of them bragged about attaining a celebrity-like status just for being foreign. Those tales sounded nice. If I got a teaching job over there, everything would change for the better. My life would finally be exciting.
I wanted to have my own grand adventure story. I yearned for something beyond my homebody existence and didn’t want to wait another two years until graduation to experience it (if I could even get a job over there in the first place). Fate had something in store for me when I stumbled into a lingerie store called French Addiction.
Next chapter: French Addiction