Just before I went away to university, a woman came into the photo-finishing store where I worked to have photos taken of her son’s artwork. He was applying to film school and needed to supply a portfolio of his work. I too was applying to this school.

“Isn’t this exciting? You must be so thrilled. To think, in a few months you’ll be living amongst so many talented kids who all have the same ambitions and interests as you!”

She was glowing and her excitement made me excited – especially the part about being surrounded by like-minded people.

Truth is, of the six schools I applied to, there was only one I truly wanted. In the end, it would be the only one to not accept me. Don’t feel sorry for me though, I landed on my feet, accepting an offer to attend one of Canada’s most prestigious universities –known for churning out some of the countries best engineers, doctors and CEOs. I know what you’re thinking – fitting in here was going to be harder than I thought. And, it was.

The odds may have been stacked against me, but I still believed I would finally be immersed in an environment with students who were just like me, or at the very least would want to be friends with someone who was just like me.

It was now well into my first week of University and I was already off to a rough start. You see, due to a clerical error I was placed into an economics frosh group. No big deal right? That’s what I said too, while handing over $300 in cash – a small price to pay for friendship, I thought to myself at the time.

Before I go any further, there are two things you need to know about Economics Frosh. Two things I wish someone would have told me before I signed-up.

The first is, economics students wear yellow shirts during Frosh Week. Why is this important? It’s important because Film Students wear red t-shirts. Without even trying I had become the proverbial (not to mention singular) blemish on the crystal clear complexions of the entire Economics Class of 2005.

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but the best way to wipe out a pimple is to pop it. This brings us to the second thing you should know about Economics Frosh. They have a rule. A rule that has been historically passed down for many years – that or, maybe it was just my year—I’m not really sure.

Anyways, if you’re an economics student, you have a duty to red-shirted film students everywhere. A duty to get in their face and shout the word “McDonalds” every time you see them, as loud as you can and as often as you can– all while making the McDonalds golden arches symbol with both hands. Why is this? Well, as it turns out– it is a widely believed theory, that as a film student, McDonalds is where, statistically speaking– you would probably end up– careerwise– and they were just letting me know. Everyday. For an entire week.

I much preferred the Engineering rule– which was to dye your entire body purple, slam your leather jacket on the ground as aggressively as possible while shouting “you good for nothing f$%ing failure!” in front of your parents. On move-in day.

My bubble (or the proverbial pimple) had officially burst. It was a week in, and I had yet to find one like-minded person. And to be fair, my standards were now lower than ever.

By October 2005, my streak had continued. I believed– at the time, my slow start was largely attributed to the fact that I was still under the legal drinking age. It was October, and I had yet to go out for a night on the town with my fellow students.

Actually this isn’t technically true. There was one all ages night during Frosh Week. I don’t like to count this particular night for several reasons. The first reason is because after hours of figuring out what to wear to my first night on the town ever — I settled on a pair of gray Mod Robes and an autographed Moby t-shirt. I was forever to be known as “Mod Robes Moby Guy.”

The second reason is because I was only in the club for a total of fifteen minutes. It was my first nightclub experience, and rumor had it this particular club was owned by a Ghostbuster (cough: Dan Aykroyd). I took a minute to drink it all in– but as it turns out I’m a bit of a lush, so much so, I didn’t even notice the dance pit in front of me. One minute I was up, the next minute I had fallen down the stairs, torn my mod robes and slashed my leg from knee to shin– forever to be known as “Bloody Mod Robes Moby Guy.”

Of course it was at that exact moment when one of my drunken frosh teammates zeroed in on me. She made her move, and proceeded to aggressively grind into me on the dance floor (another thing you should know about Economics students, by the way). It didn’t take long for her to realize she was covered in my blood. It took even less time for the bouncer to kick me out of all ages night. Fifteen minutes later I was eating Pizza Pizza alone at the side of the road thinking up ways to convince people my bloody leg was a sports injury.

Fast forward to Halloween, my least favourite day of the year. Having no friends, being underage and with a lifetime of bad costume memories – I wasn’t even that sad to spend the night alone in my room. That was until I met a good Samaritan. Her name was Sara Berns but to protect her, we’ll call her Meara Kerns. Meara, bless her, couldn’t stand the thought of me spending Halloween alone. When I told her about my age dilemma, she was sympathetic – and her sympathy came in the form of a drawer; a magical drawer that had about a half dozen fake driver’s licenses.

I had two hours to pull a costume together. Here is a breakdown of the costumes that night: a vampy Moulin Rouge Dancer, a buff Rocky Balboa, a Varsity Football Stud, a Sexy Nurse, G.I. Gay (a la G.I. Joe), a Rugged Cowboy, an Asian Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter. I’ll let you guess who I was…

If you said Asian Anne of Green Gables– you’re correct! Just kidding– I was Harry Potter.

In case you ever need to pull together a Harry Potter costume in less than an hour, the following is an itemized list with simple where to find instructions.:

  • A maroon, womens varsity rugby uniform– just a few sizes too small which you can borrow from your female neighbour. “That’s a cute top. Can I borrow it?” It’s a great ice-breaker.
  • A Zorro cape, leftover from a Phantom of the Opera costume from your youth. This cape comes with the added bonus of having to explain to people why you brought a Phantom of the Opera cape to University, but didn’t think to bring a fake ID with you.
  • A pair of thickly-framed, hipster glasses. Luckily you will already have these. You don’t wear them to be ironic, you wear them out of necessity because you are legally blind, and it’s hard to get your prescription to fit in stylish frames.
  • Of course, no Harry Potter costume is complete without a magic wand. You should totally borrow your neighbour’s violin string case. She will make you promise you won’t lose it. You’ll say “trust me” then lose it before the night is over. It will cost you $100 to replace. It’s totally worth it though, because in a week, when you get the photos back, you’ll be pretending to cast a spell in every picture.

For all you underage University freshmen out there, I give you this piece of practical and incredibly invaluable advice: If you’re going to use a fake ID for the first time in your life, I suggest you do it at a time when you aren’t dressed like like The Boy Who Lived.

At the entrance, the bouncer took one look at me, one look at my fake ID, then another at me.

“Why is the face scratched off?” he asked.

Yep, the truth was, the picture in the ID didn’t look like me at all… so, in a panic, I decided it would be best to scratch the face off with my keys before I left. It was the best. Idea. Ever.

The bouncer called over another bouncer, they looked at my ID, then back at me: Harry Potter in drag and a phantom cape. In these cases, I’ve learned it’s usually best to let your face do the talking. I hadn’t learned this yet,of course– so, instead I felt the need to come up with a lie on the spot.

“Last time I was here, I dropped my license on the floor. I was dancing so hard, I didn’t notice it was on the ground, and now it’s all scratched up – in conclusion, I danced my face off.”

That was my excuse. It was so terribly inventive; it couldn’t not be true. And…it worked. It was the first hurtle, but it wouldn’t be the last.

Once inside, I made it to the bar, ordered a Mike’s Hard Lemonade and tried to blend in.

I rested my change on the nearby pool table as I struggled to hold a drink and my wand at the same time. Another tip: apparently putting your money on a pool table is the international symbol for “let’s do this!”

Instantaneously I was descended upon by Rocky Balboa, The Studly Footballer and two Hillbilly Hobos. I later realized that the Hillbilly Hobos weren’t actually dressed up, they were in fact just two townies.

“Do you play pool? Want to get a game going?” They asked,  in freakish unison.

Truth is, I had never played pool in my life.

“I should warn you guys – I’m pretty good.” I lied. Again.

“Want to make it interesting?” Asked the Hillbilly Hobo, which I thought sounded strange. When’s the last time you played pool with Harry Potter? How do you get any more interesting than this?

I agreed, of course! Really, what choice did I have at this stage? I was a nervous wreck. I needed help; the help of a Good Samaritan. I ran over to Meara and told her the whole story.

“What should I do?” I begged, desperate for advice.

“Well, I don’t feel sorry for you if you lied,” was all she said, before walking away.

Seriously, why was my Good Samaritan such a bitch? To her credit though, she was totally right. It just wasn’t the advice I needed to hear at that exact moment.

I made my way over to the pool table, handed my wand over to one of the chivalrous Hillbilly Hobos, and positioned myself to take my first shot at pool, ever. Surprising everyone but myself I missed. By a lot. In fact, I didn’t even come close to hitting the white ball with my cue.

After an uncomfortable fit of nervous laughter I positioned myself to take a second kick at the, er, ball.

Then — I missed again. There were no words. Just beads of sweat (and maybe some tears welling).

“What are you supposed to be anyway?” asked the wand-holding Hillbilly Hobo.

“I’m Harry Potter – you know, from the children’s book series.”

No response.

“He’s a boy wizard…he’s actually the boy…who lived.”

Still nothing.

I positioned myself to take one more shot –no pressure or anything.

Contact! The white ball went flying. I closed my eyes – afraid to look. Like a pinball machine, I could hear balls flowing in all directions, until finally I peeked (through one eye) as a solid ball dropped into the corner pocket.

I did it! I did it! I grabbed my wand from the hobo, tucked it between my legs (pretending it was a broom ) and flew around the room chanting the words “suck it!”

As I passed each person, I made a “casting spells” motion with my hands. It was both mature and masculine.

I then made my way over to my team mates and poised myself to accept a well-deserved high five.

“You just sunk the 8-ball” they said, looking pissed.

“I know, right? Don’t leave me hanging guys!” I continued to gloat. Moments like these didn’t come often for me.

“Game over, buddy. We just lost.” They said, this time sounding pissed.

There wasn’t much left to say. Well, besides “Can I have my wand back, please?”

I promised myself I would never dress up again. Well, that was until four years later, when after the end of a three year relationship I decided to confidently emerge at a party dressed like…The Urban Cowboy.