One of the very first students I ever taught is starting college this year.
That doesn’t sound so bad, but when I first starting teaching her, she was in seventh grade. Seventh fucking grade. Now she’s a college freshman and I’m still working on my first bachelor’s degree. Granted, I have transferred to new schools (twice) and changed my major (more times than I care to count) and produced another human being who requires my constant attention lest he risk amputation of a digit.
In the name of nostalgia, I started thinking about where I was when I started college.
Eight years ago: It was my senior year in high school, and I watched my then-boyfriend go to college on a full-academic scholarship. A near perfect score on the PSAT gave him the chance to attend MIT, but he chose the University of Oklahoma because of me. We’re were so deeply in love and confident of our newly minted feelings that he decided to forsake a prestigious education to stay within three hours of me.
The day he moved away from home, I sobbed my way through first hour band rehearsal while banging listlessly on the vibes. I was the section leader, and my underlings were at a loss when their fearless leader started bawling like a wounded calf during the opening song. I knew I would see my love in less than two weeks, but in teenage years, that was like living ten years without a glimpse of his sainted face.
I can’t find my diary from my senior year, but I’m pretty sure that the entry looked like “Wah, wah… My life is so unfair and my parents don’t love me because I can’t graduate early and go to OU with my boyfriend, wah wah wah.” LAME.
Seven years ago: I was moving into my dorm room at OU. Yes, the same OU that Sam Bradford and Bob Stoops made famous. My roommate and I went to high school together, and I knew that I was going to let her down as a friend and familiar face to cling to because there was no way in hell I would spend all my time stuck in a cramped little room whose air conditioning constantly left the room damp and uncomfortable. Especially since my boyfriend now had his own off campus apartment with three other guys we went to high school with.
Still, I was excited. The day before I was scheduled to move in, my whole family loaded up my 1996 Nissan Maxima with 7,000 boxes full of every possession I thought I would need for the entire year. We met my roommate at a truck stop outside town and caravanned with her family down I-40 toward Norman. We hit construction in the last twenty minutes of interstate driving, and I remember having to peel my white knuckles off the steering wheel when we got to our hotel. I was a mess. My nerves were jangling, and my acid reflux was already rebelling.
After dinner, I went back to hotel room I shared with my parents and was instantly sick. Back then I blamed it the onions that were hidden in my burger and, umm, onion petals, but now I know that it was because I was stressed out to the max. I wasn’t ready to be left alone, without the comfort of the parental teat, and I definitely wasn’t ready to be let loose in the real world. The world without Mom and Dad approving every move I made.
All night, I hung over the toilet, alternatively puking my guts up and praying for the Lord to smite me right there on that bathroom floor. My stomach was literally in knots. I couldn’t get up or bend over without experiencing excruciating pain. When I was able to crawl back into bed, my dad sat beside me, rubbing my temples and telling me everything would be okay.
He was right.
The next morning we moved into Couch 509W and found out that we had no suite mates. Everything got better from there. We unpacked, ate lunch at Cracker Barrel (my first and only time ever), and shopped at Target for our bath accessories that we thought our non-existent suite mates would bring. Mom and Dad helped me unpack every box before they ran out of excuses to stay. I can still remember the tears in my mother’s eyes I as I waved to her from my window for the last time.
Six years ago: My old roommate transferred to a school in Michigan, but I chose to spend another year in the dorms. This time around I was granted priority move-in, a day before the hordes of freshman would arrive. In dorm-speak that labeled me as an Upperclassmen Who Had Chosen to Forgo Popularity Primo Parking. I was basically a social non-entity already, but I was okay with that. I didn’t need to make friends with every wannabe MRS. seeking bimbo on my floor.
I spent that first night alone in my postage stamp sized room, absolutely relishing the silence I knew I’d never get again. The next day, I met my new freshman roommate, Blaire. She and her parents were on the outs, and–Our top story at 6:00–she was bi-polar. The combination of beer, anti-psychotics, and popped collars was too strong for her to resist, and soon she was meeting a new Random at the Sig Ep house EVERY FUCKING NIGHT to bring back to the room for a drunken hook up. I initially felt sorry for her, but after being sexiled to the lounge outside our room a few times during Welcome Week, I was sick of it. I promptly moved my bathing essentials over to my boyfriend’s apartment so I could guarantee that my shower would not be interrupted byFrattie McFratpants saying, “Oh, sorry brah. Didn’t the bathroom was occupado.”
It was a rude awakening. I haven’t spoken to her since a chance meeting during my third year. I often wonder what happened to her and whether she ever sought treatment. I hope she did.
Five years ago: I moved into my very first apartment–Party Central, Apt 223F. My boyfriend and his roomies lived in 323F, so we were a scant staircase away from one another. It was chaos. My neighbors liked to sit on the front porch, hitting the biggest bong I have ever seen while playing bongo drums late into the night. It was standard operating procedure for the Norman cops to post an officer in an unmarked car outside each building from Thursday night through Sunday morning.
My parents and my brother helped me move in and unpack. That night, I slept on the floor in the living room so my parents could take my bed. It was awful. All night, it sounded like elephants were doing kegstands overhead. I concluded that it must have been the entire OU football defensive line, since they were rumored to be living in the same complex. Turns out, it was two teeny-tiny sorori-stutes, and they were fond of three inch stilettos.
Never mind. I was young, I was stupid, and I was free. I reveled in the fact that the NO ALCOHOL ON CAMPUS OR CAMPUS HOUSNG!!!1!!1ZOMG was no hanging over my head. I was supposed to get roommate some time in August of that year, but she never showed. I wasn’t quite yet 21, but that didn’t stop me from laying in a store of booze that makes my liver cringe. Can you say Bad Fucking News? I can. In Spanish, even.
Four years ago: I had changed my major again, and it no longer made sense for me to attend a university whose per credit hour tuition rivaled Ivy League schools. I enrolled at Carl Albert State College, and registered for four classes pertinent to my supposed Teaching major that I hoped would transfer elsewhere.
This was also the year that the BF started medical school. The year that I helped him move into an apartment halfway between OUHSC and the Norman campus, another compromise on behalf of me. He was devastated that I decided to transfer and live at home. So was I.
The death knells of our relationship began ringing.
Regardless, that semester was a pleasant change from the wall of needlessly hard classes I was banging my head against at OU. I felt smart again, and my self-esteem went through the roof. Though my heart ached like it had been hacked in half with a rusty meat cleaver, I was where I was supposed to be.
Three years ago: At this point, I was clinically depressed and dancing around the edges of alcoholism. My ex had unceremoniously dumped me five six months before after spending a boozy night with his gross anatomy lab partner. I transferred schools for a third and final time and moved out of my parents’ house in order to cut my thirty minute commute in half.
Needless to say, I was a wreck, personally and emotionally. Although I never sought a clinical diagnosis, I know that I probably should have been prescribed heavy duty medications. It was that bad. I wasn’t suicidal by any means, but I couldn’t see the big picture. I floated from day to day on what-ifs. What if I was prettier? Skinnier? What if I was smarter? What if I had stayed in Norman? Would he still love me then? It was no way to live life.
And then I met Red. I courted him through a veil of vodka and sadness, but he started to fall for me any way.
Two years ago: I was pregnant, though innocent of the idea. I had missed a few periods, but that wasn’t unusual. I chocked it up to stress. They had never been regular any way, and I wasn’t worried since three tests told me my Eggo was indeed not prego. (Spoiler: I was.)
Red and I had been together since December of previous year, and I was content. I felt like I was finally regaining a footing on who I was and who I could become. I wanted to get out of school as soon as possible. The future was waiting! That would all change in January of 2009, but in a good way.
Last year: I was getting ready to go back to school after a semester of maternity leave. Boo was seven months old, and far from being anxious about it, he could care less. I was the one who was having separation anxiety problems. The second day, I remember sitting in my Genetics lab listening to my (awesome) instructor describe a monohybrid cross and thinking, “I can do this. Now shut the hell up so I can get out of here. My my baby needs me. And I want a na-aaaaaaap.”
I had an entirely new goal in mind. I wanted to be able to support myself and my child independently if need be. Of course Red stood steadfastly by my side, but I didn’t want my existence to remain forever sponge-like. I threw myself into my studies with a fervor that I’d never possessed before, and my grades soared. I guess the responsibility of having another person depend entirely on me for his safety and well being hit me hard, and I grew up. FINALLY.
At long last, I was an adult.
Now: This summer has been golden. I’ve gotten to spend time with my boys, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. My memories have already taken on a fuzzy, golden haze around the edges, like I’m looking at them through an old Polaroid photo.
I’ve been largely carefree and happy, with no stresses hanging over my head. I could stay up all night with Red and then get up early with Boo, knowing that his naptime would give me an opportunity to catch up on any lost sleep. I had no deadlines except the ones I set for myself. I could give my baby all the attention he needed. And he blossomed. He’s a little person now.
I can only imagine what the next year will bring.