One girl’s guide to Court Street

The bricks of Court Street go a long way toward defining it: dirty, burnt red. It’s both beautiful and ugly, much like my time on Court Street. I’ve had my fiery red nights of happiness, making new friends and falling in love. But I’ve also had my fair share of dingy, depressing poop-brown nights where I’ve lost my best friend or just been a mess.

Through it all though, I’ve become someone quite different than when I arrived here a little over two years ago — just as time has changed those iconic bricks.

Court Street is about more than wild nights. It’s about all the times spent trying to discover who you are as a person, and not just a college student. I’ve had my heart broken on Court Street. I’ve made some of my dearest friends at the bars. I’ve eaten my weight in burritos and wings and then attempted to fit into the tiny dresses at Figleaf. But most of all I have learned what it means to be alive — all on this one little stretch of road in a small town in Ohio.

As I near the middle of my junior year, I’ve realized that now it’s time for me to share my story with new Bobcats so that they make the most of their time on Court Street.

Before I even arrived for my first night as a freshman in Scott Quadrangle, Court Street played a major role in my life. I remember walking down to get chocolate ice cream at Whit’s as a 7-year-0ld with my parents and Brian Wiebe, my older brother, who also attended Ohio University. I was amazed at all Court Street had to offer, and I always wanted to go back whenever we would visit my brother. Court Street was a magical place as a kid, but it eventually would come to disappoint me at times.

However, when it came time to decide where I would go to school, the obvious choice was Ohio University because it was a second home and felt familiar. I still have my very first photo that my mom took of me outside of the gates to the entrance of College Green during freshmen orientation. The gate reads, “So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge, wisdom, and love.” I look happy, confident, and scared.

Freshman Orientation. Photo taken by Lola Wiebe
Freshman Orientation. Photo by Lola Wiebe

I had little to no idea what all would happen during my time at OU, but I knew that it was going to be the biggest adventure of my life so far. I learned so much from my time on Court Street — lessons that could not have been taught in a classroom in Bentley or Morton Hall.

My first, most memorable memory was my first HallOUween. I was head-over-heels for this guy I had awkwardly met in my dorm, and I thought he felt the same way. We kept going back and forth on whether or not to date, and eventually decided we were somewhat exclusive but still not dating.

What’s that supposed to mean?

My freshman head did not know. Spoiler alert: We did not work out. Long story short (prepare for a run-on sentence): I kissed another guy, he got mad, he takes me on a date to Pita Pit, I think we’re back on, I invite him to a HallOUween party, he shows up with another girl, I freak and wind up running down Court Street with my best girl friend trying to make out with every boy in sight.

Classy, right?

To this day, I still do not know how many boys I actually kissed that night. It is not a pretty story, and quite frankly makes me sound incredibly stupid. But I realized that I didn’t need him to determine my happiness, and I certainly didn’t need uncertainty in a “relationship.” It was my friend who was there for me when I needed someone, and not the random dude from Scott Quad.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t settle for anything less than being and feeling fabulous. Value the people who are there for you, who make sure you make it back to your dorm/apartment/house.

That wasn’t the only time I had my heart broken on Court Street. The second time was a lot harder to deal with because we had been going out for nearly two years.

When you go from love to being told “Let’s just be friends,” life sucks. There’s nothing you can do about it and you just sit around thinking about how things should have gone differently. At least that’s what I did for a little while.

“The Break-up” was unexpected, confusing, and told me that perhaps I should invest in Kleenex and Dove chocolate. This taught me much more than just “don’t make out with everyone.”

Living above Subway on Court Street my junior year has been one of the best and worst parts of my time at OU. A number of my friends from Scott Quad also live in the apartments above Subway, including the boy who broke my heart the second time. There have been several awkward times since “The Break-up” where I’ve run into “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” but far more happy times with some of the best people I’ve ever met.

In my prime. Photo taken by Katherine Webster
In my prime. Photo by Katherine Webster

An uncomfortable run-in in the hallway is not what I’m going to remember about my time above Subway. Rather, I’m going to remember the nights my roommates and I took too many shots and danced on our surprisingly solid coffee table to Taylor Swift. I’m going to remember the summer night when I came down to check out the new apartment and wound up laying in the middle of Court Street at 4 a.m. Don’t ask.

Court Street can’t always be a fairytale. There are a ton of disappointments in life, but I’d much rather remember the times I felt like a whole person and not a sad shell. The thing about breaking up is that you get over it. One day I just woke up and DIDN’T think about it. I stepped out of my apartment on Court Street and it was a damn beautiful day to be 20-something and fearless.

LESSON LEARNED: It’s not easy being alone, but it’s better than wasting your time with someone who doesn’t make you truly happy. Bad things will happen, but they make the good moments all the more sweet.

My final and favorite memory of Court Street was very recent. Anytime I have been upset, I’ve turned to retail therapy. Or alcoholism (kidding). At nearly the same time “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” and I broke up, my roommate and her ex-boyfriend also broke up.

We consider ourselves much like Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins from Parks and Recreation, and we decided it was time to take some advice from two other characters from the series. Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, two bureaucrats from the show, always talk about how you should “Treat Yo’ Self!” So naturally, my roommate and I did just that. A day that perhaps should have been spent doing homework was spent heading out to the bars at 3 p.m. It’s five o’clock somewhere, right? We ordered our favorite beverages and toasted to treating ourselves.

Sometimes the responsibilities can be put on hold for a couple hours. I am a strong believer in being kind to yourself when you’re feeling down or in serious need of a break from working hard. At the same time, though, be kind to your friends. Make them go eat with you if you know they aren’t feeling the greatest about life. Buy them a stupid card and some nail polish to cheer them up about a failed test. Or, just go drink for a bit at Pawpurr’s or the CI.

LESSON LEARNED: Treat yo’ self. Treat yo’ friends. Drink a little and shop a little, but don’t go overboard. Time heals everything, but not your bank account or liver.

Brian, the first person who introduced me to Court Street, said, “There’s a saying I’ve heard that is something to the effect of, ‘There is a time and a place for everything, and it’s college.’ OU gave me an opportunity to experiment and try new things, both academically and socially. So I would tell new Bobcats to experiment and have fun, but also to do so in a way that maintains both self-respect and respect for others.”

Brian Wiebe and sister Diana Wiebe. Photo taken by Lola Wiebe
OU siblings Brian Wiebe and Diana Wiebe. Photo by Lola Wiebe

Take it from him and me, two Bobcats, to cherish the time you have here because there’s no place like OU. Once your time here is over, it’s really the REAL world. Be appreciative of the precious time you have here and don’t waste it crying over someone or something that isn’t what is right for you.

Life is far from simple, and it only seems to get more complicated the more time goes by. However, the time spent at OU teaches people more about life than they realize. I am still learning as a junior, and I’ll be sad to leave in a little over a year. Court Street has been the epicenter of my learning experience and taught me a lot about the difference between being an adult and a kid, though I still act like a kid from time to time.

I’m not the same person I was in that picture right before I came to OU, but I’m definitely still happy, confident, and somewhat scared. Just like those bricks on Court that I’ve lain on, I may not be wild and fiery red on the outside, but I’m more solid and secure in who I am than I used to be.

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Diana Canada Jean Wiebe is a junior studying journalism and political science at Ohio University. She is the Editor-in-Chief of FANGLE Magazine, a member of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-law Fraternity, and an account associate for ImPRessions. Her dream job is to become a litigator on the West Coast.

Religion finds its place in Athens

Like it or not, Athens, Ohio, has earned the reputation as a metropolis of bars, parties and good times.

Nineteen bars, to be exact, can be found within walking distance of Ohio University’s campus, but 47 different places of worship and religious organizations are located within 20 minutes of campus.

However, it’s safe to say that thousands of Ohio alumni do not return to Athens on homecoming to relive old memories from their favorite places of prayer and repentance.

Yet, keeping the faith carries on, even in the midst of an environment of free-thinking and a natural tendency to deviate from one’s embedded ideals. Spreading the word of God requires a new approach when playing to a college crowd.

First Presbyterian Church, located smack-dab in the middle of Uptown Athens at the corner of Court and Washington, reaches out to students from their first days on campus through handing out literature at the university’s involvement fair. The church also offers complimentary lunches to students each Wednesday afternoon.

Being located within such a close proximity to campus allows the church’s administration to reach out to a new crop of freshmen every year. Its location, however, also comes with some disadvantages.

“When I try to describe where we’re located, (people) immediately think we’re the Pita Pit or a bar,” FPC Pastor Rob Martin said.

It hasn’t always been that way. As a matter of fact, the church predates any Athens watering hole or gyro hub by several decades.

The church first opened its doors in 1809 and played a “vital role in the development of the city and university,” according to the church’s website. Seems likely, considering the university’s first president, Jacob Lindley, also served as the church’s pastor. Three of Lindley’s four presidential successors also assumed the role of FPC pastor.

The widely beloved town and university were built upon religious ideals. The marker near the university’s Alumni Gateway reads, “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, school and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

[metaslider id=785]Two Latin phrases are engraved on the 99-year old arches of the gateway. They read, “So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge wisdom and love,” and “So depart that daily thou mayest better serve thy fellowmen thy country and thy God.”

The university’s motto “Religio, Doctrina, Civilitas, Prae, Ombinius, Virtus” translates to “Religion, Learning, Civility, and above all, virtue.”

Though religion has its roots in Ohio University lore, Martin admitted that a shift towards secularism means the church no longer assumes a central role in society, even if his church is in the middle of the action.

Martin’s assertion is not necessarily supported by statistics. The Pew Research center conducted a study in 2012 in which over 2,500 censuses from more than 230 countries were analyzed. The results: 84 percent of the world associated themselves with a religion, with 31.5% of the world following Christianity. Any shift Martin may have noticed could stem from how deeply involved people are in religious activities. The study did not address how frequently people attended religious services.

To combat a lessening demand for the religious part of the church, Martin placed an emphasis on serving the community, especially with the economic hardships faced by many residents of Southeastern Ohio. The church works hand-in-hand with other churches and religious organizations to assist the community, despite a popular trend of churches slipping into survival mode and rationing resources with regard to community support.

“They had a saying here: ‘A heart for the heart of the city,’” Martin said with a chuckle.

That heart shows affection for a diverse community, regardless of background.

The Presbyterian Church has been open to homosexuals since the mid-’80s, Martin estimated, and it is evidenced by a small gay pride decal on the glass of the building’s welcome sign.

“It’s nice to not have that be an issue,” Martin said. “We keep a flag there as a signal to anybody that if you feel, if you have an alternative lifestyle and you want to be part of a church, this would certainly be a church that would welcome you and not judge you.”

The Presbyterian Church is right at home in what senior video production major Joel Hafner described as a progressive community.

“A lot of churches are afraid to discuss the issue or talk about it because they don’t want to be ridiculed,” he said. “It’s really following the Bible. Jesus says that the greatest commandment of all is to love your neighbor and to love each other.”

The sexual orientation of a potential church-goer should play no role in deciding an individual’s acceptance into a church, in Hafner’s opinion. Well, his opinion is based off of what he read in the Bible, a piece of literature by which he has led his entire life.

The word of God knows no discrimination: If somebody wants to hear it, the church should open its doors and guide whoever strolls in the nearest pew, in Hafner’s eyes. For him, getting an individual to want to listen to the good word is victory enough.

Hafner does not identify himself as a Presbyterian. He attends Central Avenue United Methodist Church, but his beliefs line up with the motto of the Presbyterian Church: Seffer Reformanda – always reforming. Tradition is important, but so is maintaining a connection to the modern world.

It’s what do we have to say for the time that we’re in right now, because it’s the only time we’re given,” Martin said.

Holding on to tradition can prove to be difficult within a world of “sinful” actions. The church sits only 20 yards from the bank wall where two intoxicated students engaged in sexual acts, eventually resulting in a sexual assault investigation. Martin wouldn’t support something of this nature, but he understands the nature of the town’s most colorful street.

“I’m all for a good time,” Martin said, followed by a grin.”Within limits.”

Within the Bible, there is nothing that strictly forbids Christians from consuming, but as Martin stated, there are limits.

Ephesians 5:18 reads, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with spirit.”

The problem with a college town: many drink to get blasted, inebriated, drunk, whatever the choice word may be. Martin can’t condone drunkenness, but accepts that students will drink. He just prays for their safety.

“That’s what it means to be a student,” he said. “A chance to get your mistakes out of the way.”

Before attending Ohio, Hafner knew he wanted to maintain his faith, but acknowledged the difficulty of staying on that path with an environment which encourages self-discovery and change. To do so, he sought out a Christian community, joining Campus Crusaders right away.

“If you’re a big video game person, you’ll seek out a community of gamers who you can relate to,” Hafner said. “I think it takes a certain mindset to pursue it yourself.”

That community is continuously looking to expand. Campus Crusaders for Christ, commonly known as “CRU,” continues to recruit new students and will send out student representatives to talk religion, school and life with anybody who shows interest. The organization seeks to build faith through weekly Bible studies and extracurricular community gatherings, such as camp-outs, intramural sports and attending concerts.

For Hafner, the best way to spread the word of God is associating with people who do not share similar beliefs. Christians should love chronic party-goers just as much as they would love somebody in their Bible study group, according to Hafner.

“Through that, if you’re interested in getting to know what you believe and hear more, I’d love to tell them about it,” he stated,” I’m not going to avoid people who are Christians because they go party. That’s not right.”

It’s a good thing that the partying is tolerated because it’s safe to say Athens’ bar culture is here to stay. Martin and Hafner agree that everyone is a child of God, regardless of how many church services they have attended or their blood-alcohol concentration levels.

It’s about rising above differences and “loving thy neighbor,” just as the Ten Commandments states. As for Hafner’s favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 28:1. It lines up perfectly with what he believes.

“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”

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Brad Friedman is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. He is a student employee with the Ohio University athletics department, working in video production and media relations, in addition to writing about the Blue Jackets for “The Hockey Writers.” In this past, Brad has worked with WOUB Public Media and the Columbus Blue Jackets digital media team.