I felt like I was too young to go to university.

Forget what the calender had to say, the idea of leaving the home I knew to live in a staircase shoebox in Champlain College sounded like a pretty dumb idea.

Still, I found myself a student of Trent University and during the first week of school I sat in the Great Hall eating my lunch, worried.

I don’t know what I was worried about, exactly. I was already making all kinds of friends. Even if I had objected I’m sure they still would have been made.

My classes promised to be exciting though beguiling, and in those first few days all I was really trying to do was gain the measure of what people meant when they said ‘University’.

That’s when my friend Ryder came up to me and said: “Hey James, want to do a radio show about Star Trek?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, stunned. No part of that sentence made any sense to me, except perhaps the part about Star Trek. I like Star Trek.

“I’m putting together a programme proposal to do a radio show at Trent Radio. The University radio station. 92.7 FM? I want to do it about Star Trek. Do you want to be my co-host?”

I don’t know if it was my upbringing, but my first instinct was not: “that’s neat!” or “wouldn’t that be cool”. Instead, my inner narrative assumed that I just wouldn’t be allowed on the radio.

I’m a student. I’m three days into being a student. I’m not even a particularly good student. They let students control vast and powerful airwaves? Whose dumb idea was that?

And certainly all the cool kids would be doing all the cool stuff and all that I’d be left with would be uncool stuff because I’ve never been cool and this can’t possibly be something for me, even if I were to be interesting in it, which I’m not saying I’m not interesting in it, I may very well be … I don’t know I’ll have to check, but the point is: they couldn’t possibly let me. Could they?

It was a bit of a panic, but a friendly one.

Somehow I filled out the proposal, shut my eyes, and hoped for the best. The proposal was just a who/what/where/when questionaire. Nothing invasive. Still completely terrifying in that it was a form and involved handwriting.

I avoided radios for days, never really thinking anything would happen. It felt kind of like entering a raffle for a really big quilt, or having voted for an election—you just kind of hope something good comes from it, but you never expect to see any clear results. I wasn’t expecting—or trying not to accept the feeling that I wanted to hear—anything back.

To make a long story shorter …

I felt like I was too young to be on the radio. Forget what the Programme Director had to say, the idea that I was leaving the dorm room I knew, to sit in a radio booth surrounded by terrifying buttons and dials, with little to no training, sounded like a pretty dumb idea.

Still, I found myself at Trent Radio, headphones in hand, readying to talk about Star Trek.

trent radio booth

“You ready to go?” asked Ryder.

The clock was counting down to go-time. There was a big red light, unlit, but threatened to be lit at the moment the microphones were live. The clock was spinning around in 5, 4, 3, 2 …“Oh, God!”

Then, space. The final frontier.

No one will listen to this. I don’t think I can even take myself seriously on this topic. I mean, I like Star Trek. But do I like Star Trek this much? Isn’t this a bit too much? Do I really have enough to talk about? Half-an-hour seems like pretty much forever. I can’t believe they let me do this.

I thought at any moment someone was going to come into the radio booth, grab me by the collar and say: “You’re not supposed to be in here. You’re just a first year, ha, ha, ha! You haven’t even figured out what you’re doing in life yet. How can you be on the radio? I’m sure you understand that we will have to ask you to leave!”

I was sure my fear and doubts and general incompetence would be discovered momentarily, and I’d be yanked out into the street and not know which bus to take home to Symons campus. I was pretty convinced. And I stayed convinced until the show was over.

“That went well,” said Ryder, cheerily. God, I hated him.

Then I think I may have collapsed, it’s hard to tell.

I was very nervous and very freaked out and my own “hey, radio, that’s kind of neat” was entirely drowned out by a self-oppressive notion that it was somehow somebody else’s privilege.

I’m shy. I don’t want to hear myself talk, I don’t have a nice voice. I don’t really want anyone else to listen. What happens if they listen? Other people might find my voice irritating. So, this isn’t for me, right? (Right?) Turns out I was wrong. In Trent Radio I found a tremendous community of people who fully supported me.

What I didn’t understand was that Trent Radio didn’t particularly care if I was afraid or even if I was an idiot and sweating bullets, yammering my way through my first show in giddy tension. I didn’t really understand what Trent Radio was: a facility owned and operated by the students of Trent University. All students—you.

Even the ones like me who were convinced they couldn’t possibly do it, and that everyone was going to be judgemental and mean.

Instead of the judgement and meanness I was expecting, at Trent Radio I found free coffee, community, and a bunch of people who really supported me doing a weekly radio show on a silly topic that I wasn’t even sure I could take seriously.

“If there’s something you’re passionate about saying,” said Trent Radio to me, “then say it on the air. Even if it’s geeky.”

What a relief.

At Trent’s 50th Anniversary celebrations this summer I said something I thought was quite clever, only to hear it independently from many other people that weekend, who I suppose also thought it was quite clever when they thought of it themselves: “I didn’t go to Trent University. I went to Trent Radio.” Of course I attended classes, did all right (only all right), and graduated, but the real learning, my real development, was in a radio booth.

The point of all this is—don’t think you’re the wrong person. Don’t think you are somehow, in some way, not allowed. If you, in your heart of hearts, think radio is pretty neat, or even just think that you might think that way about it, or might not, well, either way it’s easy to get involved.

You could have your own radio show on something you think is pretty cool: jazz, horses, video games, bird watching, sex, German polka, German polka jazz sex–it doesn’t matter. What matters is you getting the most out of it.

Programme Proposals are available online (at trentradio.ca) and at Trent Radio House, 715 George St. North – the corners of George and Parkhill, just down the street from Sadleir House (your downtown student community centre). They’re both between Trent University and downtown, and very easy to get to on the bus.

To apply to have a show, just hand in the programme proposal on or before Friday September 12 at Noon, at Trent Radio House.

Having trouble filling it out? Want to do something but not getting ideas? Interested but completely scared out of your melon-mind? Attend any one of these shiny new Programme Proposal Workshops:

Tuesday September 9
The Peterborough Public Library at 7pm

Wednesday September 10
Sadleir House, 751 George St N at 2pm

Wednesday September 10
Lady Eaton College Room 212 at 7pm

Thursday September 11

Trent Radio House, 715 George St N at 3pm

You can also visit us Tuesday September 9 at Clubs & Groups Day on Symons Campus.

In the coming year and beyond, if you ever want to get involved, try. In the meantime, listen to Trent Radio 92.7 FM, CFFF in Peterborough. You may just hear yourself.

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Sometime in the 1980s young James Kerr placed a peanut butter sandwich in his parent’s VCR and was transported to a magical world where he was taught by long-dead ghost druids the secrets of community and radio waves. Returning to this world he became an arcade champ, dungeon master, and perhaps most relevantly the Programme Director of Trent Radio 92.7 fm. His parents had to clean the peanut butter out of the VCR.