LAWRENCE, KS—Since starting college at the University of Kansas in the fall, freshman Kirk Vanderkamp has been cycling through personal identities at a breakneck pace, Hamilton Hall sources reported Monday.
"It's really unnerving to watch," said Eric Yusef, resident assistant on the 6-West wing where Vanderkamp lives. "You never know what he's going to be wearing when he steps out of that dorm room. Since September, I've seen him in everything from head-to-toe FUBU sweats and a chain to a tie-dyed shirt and a fringed leather jacket."
While students tend to experiment with various identities during their college years, Vanderkamp's peers said the accelerated pace of his process of self-discovery is alarming. Since the beginning of the fall term, Vanderkamp has aligned himself with no fewer than nine social groups, and has adopted a new wardrobe and a distinct set of speech patterns to accompany each identity.
Those close to Vanderkamp said he started his freshman year in typical fashion: He spent his time binge-drinking, making out with girls, and attending parties at fraternities. According to Yusef, after only two weeks as a "frat-guy wannabe," Vanderkamp slipped into the second of his many identities.
"Almost right away, Kirk met one of the stoners on second floor," Yusef said. "Within 24 hours, he went from the average, squared-away frat dude to the frat dude who smokes pot and has shaggy hair. For a while, he was sorta straddling the line."
Added Yusef: "But when he started wearing those round, John Lennon glasses, you could tell the shift was complete."
Throughout the rest of September, Vanderkamp cycled through a series of variations on the stoner persona.
"I almost feel bad for introducing him to weed," said Tim Hiller, Vanderkamp's friend. "After meeting my friend Sky, Kirk started talking about dropping out of school and joining a Buddhist monastery. Of course, a couple days later, he also said he was going to learn to play bass and get a jam band together. He said the monks would be cool about it."
Added Hiller: "I stopped hanging out with him around then."
According to Hiller, Vanderkamp took another sharp turn in mid-October, when he turned into a "white hip-hop kid."
"I bumped into him, and he was nearly unrecognizable," Hiller said. "He was dressed in low-slung jeans and this shiny red jacket. I didn't know who it was until he said, 'Yo, Hills! Wussup?' He even had his hair in cornrows. He said he'd stopped hanging with us because we listened to 'that Grateful Dead shiznit.'"
Vanderkamp was soon spotted freestyling "off the top of [his] dome" and performing spoken-word pieces at Java Java, a local coffee shop. By early November, Vanderkamp had shed the hip-hop persona and shifted from writing spoken-word poetry on napkins to spending hours scribbling his first novel in a leather-bound journal.
Yusef said he assumed Vanderkamp's transition from "gangbanger to tortured artist" resulted from his exposure to the customers at Java Java.
"Luckily, I didn't even have to talk to Kirk the last time I saw him," Yusef said. "He was so involved in this worn-out copy of On The Road that he didn't even notice me."
"I saw that, along with his blazer and scarf, he was wearing those John Lennon glasses again," Yusef added. "At least he's thrifty."
With a few weeks left in the fall semester, peers speculate that Vanderkamp will change personas at least once more. The top contenders for his next identity include sports enthusiast, raver kid, and motivated careerist.
"Those are all good guesses," Yusef said. "But you have to remember, we're coming up on Hanukkah. Some people don't know this, but Kirk's Jewish. My money says he's going to be one of those guys who gets serious about his Jewish heritage. He's totally going to start wearing a yarmulke and keeping kosher. Either that, or film nerd."