Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt


This is to be an occasional series of posts about . . . t-shirts! I seem to be one of those people who feels the need to buy a t-shirt every time I go somewhere or do something. When we moved last summer, I donated 56 t-shirts to charity! It wasn’t easy for me to donate them, even though most of them no longer fit me anyway—each one of them is a memento of some milestone in my life. I finally made peace with getting rid of them by taking a photo of each one. So, now I have a record of them. As a matter-of-fact, I got so into it, that I took a photo of every t-shirt I own, even the ones I wasn’t getting rid of! And, now I’ve decided to use them as writing prompts.

My first t-shirt is one that I didn’t get rid of—even though it no longer fits me. It is the oldest t-shirt still in my possession, dating from my senior year at UNC-Chapel Hill:


Although I started out as a philosophy major at UNC, I switched to nursing when I realized that I would actually need to get a job after school. Plus, I kept falling asleep in my philosophy classes. I wasn’t a good student, but I was a guy, and I think that UNC wanted to get more men into nursing.

In retrospect, majoring in nursing was one of the best decisions I ever made. As I had hoped, it allowed me to get a job upon graduating in 1984, in a really bad economy—unemployment was 9.6% in 1983, equaling our own Great Recession’s highest rate in 2010:



Furthermore, it gave me a skill that I could take anywhere, including Peace Corps Guatemala in 1985 and on to law school in 1992.

Most importantly, however, my nursing degree changed me. Carolina was the crucible that formed me, but the nursing school was the fire. I came from a rural high school that sent around 10% of its graduates to college. I didn’t know who or what I was when I arrived at UNC the week before classes started for Freshman Orientation. I didn’t really know how to be a student or think critically. I’m not sure that I even knew how to be a friend yet! UNC taught me all those things and so much more. I wasn’t the best student, and it took me five years to graduate, but those five years shaped me in ways that still astound me, 30 years later.

So, yes, UNC Nurses Hit You With Their Best Shot, but . . . UNC hit me with its best shot. Good medicine indeed.

Oh . . . I also have a picture of me wearing that t-shirt in 1984:


It did fit, once upon a time!


10 thoughts on “Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

  1. Excellent read, Alan, and I’m always on the lookout for new ideas with regard to writing. It’s crazy, don’t you find that we have so much to say, and each time all that’s needed is a spark? The hardest bit’s finding that spark.

    And you have 50 something t.shirts there, so you’re laughing 😉

    It’s so true, what you say about college/university studies. I always say that if university gave me anything, then it gave me confidence, for all the reasons you’ve stated in your post.

    Great stuff!

    • Thanks so much! I wrote a response to a question that UNC sent out, “Why are you a lifetime General Alumni Association member?” and UNC ended up using it in an ad for the GAA! I should edit the story to reflect that!

  2. This is great! I can see all your photos in a book format. Keep following your inspiration, shirt collecting is so relatable and fun. I worked at a movie theater for years and attended tons of concerts. I have boxes in my garage full of movie and band shirts. I hope to make a quilt one day 🙂

    • So funny–I looked into making a quilt with a bunch of t-shirts that I owned before a previous move. I just ended up moving them with me! Let me know how the quilt turns out!

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