Purple side til the day I die

Here are some things I am going to remember: standing barefoot on the stage of Palmer auditorium, ripped newspaper stuck to my feet. Heart-pounding anticipation followed by overwhelming joy followed by hugging and crying dozens of people who are feeling those exact same emotions. Circling up and singing for the final time as an active member of purple side with a diverse, wonderful, talented group people that I love very dearly. If you're not familiar with my university, I'm sure none of that made sense, but bear with me. Last night was my final College Night as a student at the University of Montevallo, and purple side won. That victory was the result of countless hours of hard work from so many dedicated students- believe me when I say that purple side is made up of some amazing people.

Some backstory: my university has a tradition called College Night and it's also impossible to explain, but I'll give it a go. Saying that College Night is our homecoming tradition is the most basic way of putting it, but a pretty huge oversimplification. Students are either purples or golds (Montevallo's school colors), and after months of preparation during the fall semester, they spend the first month and a half of spring semester earning points towards a victory for their side. You choose your side based on where you feel you fit best, and for me, I never for a second doubted that I belonged with the purples. Purples are crazy and artsy and completely unafraid of being who they are; from the moment I got to this school, I knew I wanted to be a part of that.

A lot goes into winning college night. There are intramural games, spirit points, elaborate custom signs for our theater production, but by far the biggest deciding factor is the musical each side puts together and performs for 4 nights each February. Students given a budget and, within the span of a month and a half, puts on a completely original musical. On Saturday night, after the show's run, the winner is announced. College Night the longest running intramural tradition in the US, and I'm pretty sure Montevallo's website explains it better than I ever could.

That's right: instead of football, my school has competitive musical theater, and people get PASSIONATE about it. You don't have to be in the show to get sucked into the madness that is College Night. This year, the purple side's musical was a feminist pirate show (no, seriously) and it was freaking incredible.

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Honestly, my freshman year of college was pretty confusing. After being at school for all of a week, a girl I knew from high school found me in the cafeteria and asked me if I was a purple or gold. I told her I was pretty sure I was a purple, and suddenly I found myself adopted into a family on purple side. Each side is pretty distinctive; after coming to college night, you'll know where you fit in. That year, I heard nonstop from other students saying how I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and that College Night was going to change my life.

I was skeptical. But then February rolled around and I spent the weekend of the show in the auditorium chanting and hugging and singing with a group of people I didn't yet know but who, for some reason, accepted me and wanted me there regardless. That's when I understood what the hype was about. This game is the heart and soul of Montevallo and it brings people together in a way I had never experienced before.

The next three years I was the cabinet head for photography on purple side and got as involved as I could possibly be without actually being on production staff. I spent those three years capturing all the craziness and the emotion and the excitement that comes along with this game, and I started getting to know those people I sang with on Saturday night my freshman year. Pretty soon, I had a family.

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Yes, the game is fun. Obviously we want to take home the win on Saturday night; for a lot of people, playing college night involves a lot of sleepless nights and tears and high stakes. But we have a saying on purple side- win or lose, it's always a victory. That's because winning or losing isn't the reason this game is so important. It's not the reason people come back and get involved year after year. The thing that is so incredible about purple side is the community it creates.

And what a community purple side is. We're not always the classiest. We're messy and sleep deprived and sometimes a little wild. We're a big eccentric family made up of people of all different races and sexualities. No matter who you are or where you come from, you can have a home on purple side, and that's the amazing part. Purples go out of their way to help each other and stand by their own; so many people (myself included) have never experienced that before. The thing I love most about my side is that purple side accepts you as you are.

All my life, I've been the type to really only have 3 or 4 close friends. Middle school was bad, high school was worse, and I thought I would always feel like an outsider. But at the University of Montevallo, for the first time in my life, I found my people. I'm far from the only one who can say that being a part of college night is a life altering experience; most people on purple side have a similar story. In fact, the community on purple side has kept people from ending their life.

Purple side has taught me that it's okay to be messy. It's brought me out of my shell. What's more, it's given me a (slightly dysfunctional yet absolutely wonderful) family. I never dreamed I could be a part of something like this.

So, this is my senior year of college. As of today, I am officially a "vintage" purple, and it's bittersweet. But I know that, even if my time actively playing the game is over, I will always be a purple. This community will always be a part of who I am, and I will always have this family. As the cheer goes... purple side til the day I die.

Last night, purple side won college night. I spent the majority of the evening as an anxious mess, and once our victory was announced onstage, I hugged about 100 people, cried my eyes out, and felt so, so proud of our amazing leaders and my fellow purples. Win or lose, purple side is about love. Last night we won, but I think I'd be feeling the exact same way if we didn't.

I'm always going to remember last night. I'm always going to be thankful for the experience I had with these wonderful people. No matter what, I am always going to be proud to be a purple.