On a random day in mid-September I was thrown back into a world that I thought had forgotten about me. An invitation to a GroupMe, full of some of the equally entertaining and successful alumni of Chapel Hill. Thus began my preparation for homecoming. I started “training”, while mentally steeling myself to see familiar faces. I was different, so altered since the last homecoming. My mind wandered and I started to wonder if people would accept this “new Lee” or my camera, or even my hair. As the weeks flew by, the anticipation for this event had grown from a casual insert in a discussion to controlling nearly all of my conversations with other alumni. The chat came alive with memes, stray shots, and chats of social awareness. We also talked of plans and ticket prices, and some individuals utilized the infamous, yet effective, “hey bighead” technique. Before I knew it, the weekend was upon us and I drove, with haste, to Chapel Hill to begin my DHOE experience.
DHOE or Drunkest Homecoming On Earth is the title given to UNC’s homecoming weekend. Modeled after GHOE (the “G” stands for Greatest) at A&T, DHOE has similarities to the originator. Despite being a PWI (Predominately White Institute), Carolina has a tight knit community for Blacks and other minorities. Although I would often be the only black male in my class during my tenure, after the school day was over I surrounded myself with people who looked, talked, and thought the same way I did. Days would be spent lounging in the pit, escaping to the library, or kicking it in Rams and our nights were also spent at the Library or on the couch at Top-O. Our community was not only present for the turn up; we also bonded together over various social and humane issues, the most recent being the Black Lives Matter protests at the football games. DHOE is more than just throwing back shots of Hennessy and tailgate hopping; it is even more than a family reunion. DHOE is a catalyst for Carolina.
A catalyst is defined as a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction, without undergoing any significant changes. For those few days, the real world is halted and a grand illusion is cast over everything from the Old Well to the Dean Dome. People travel across the states to enjoy the weekend while undergraduate students cram for exams in order to free up their schedules. Over the course of a year, graduates may go through significant changes in their lifestyles. Some come back with diamonds on their fingers, others have shortened their hair, while a handful may have only changed their mailing address. The entire weekend is a blur, but living in the moment feels like an eternity. We greet our friends at let out, run into old crushes at the bar, and even amend some previous issues between individuals; DHOE gives each person the opportunity to revisit the past. The key however is to apply the person you currently are to the situation, rather than reverting back to the old, and often untamed, self.
As we departed from the greatest university on Earth, many of us experience a momentary feeling of grief. Are we supposed to go back to the real world after that weekend? Did I spark something with an old flame just to have it die? Will my boss smell the liquor and bad decisions through my suit on Monday? These questions fill our heads as we drive back to our destinations; but there is also a feeling that awakens us. A charge of pure adrenaline and joy, for the people we’ve become can still find a place to belong at UNC. The Catalyst of Carolina gives us the energy we need to stay motivated for another 365 days. It instills in us a hope that our fellow Tar Heels will continue to succeed in their endeavors, and provides us with their support, the same foundation that allowed us to excel at Chapel Hill.
Below you will find the full DHOE album. Whatever is in there is all that I was able to produce from the weekend. Images are available for download and you may post at your leisure. Find me on IG @thegoldenmoments and show some love if you decide to share your image! Oh yeah and a full recap video is eventually coming too 🙂