I graduated from high school, valedictorian and with a lot of scholarships. I worked my tail off applying for literally every single scholarship I could get my hands on. I didn’t win them all, but some of the ones I did were pretty big. My family had less than no money, so if I was going to go to college, it was going to be on me to figure out how to pay for it. In the end, I received almost exclusively grants and work study along with my scholarships, so I earned my Bachelor of Art degree in Psychology with no debt.
Side note- it never occurred to me to even worry or stress about how to pay for college. I just figured that if I was accepted and went, I would figure out a way to pay for it. That is so opposite of the me now: I dwell on money matters entirely too much.
My freshman year of university I lived in a dormitory. Honestly, I didn’t even know how to go about figuring out any other kind of living arrangement, so that was the default. My mom and boyfriend and maybe my boyfriend’s mom (it is so embarrassing that I don’t even remember for sure!) drove me the five hours to school. I had a suitcase, a few boxes of stuff and a computer. After saying the goodbyes I unpacked and walked straight to the student building to find a job. As I opened the glass door to the building, there was a flyer on the door advertising a job, so I followed the information and got my first job in college. Until this point the only job I had held was for the McDonalds in the town I lived. It was an office job working for the testing department. That was where people had to go to test for math and foreign language placement. I actually ended up taking a test for spanish myself later on. I don’t really remember too much, except my boss’ name was Celia and one time I chugged some grape juice for lunch right before starting work and had to run down the hall to throw up. Yep, no more grape juice for me after that!
Halfway through my freshman year, once I had gotten a little more comfortable with being at school, I got a new job. I was studying to be a physical therapist (or so I thought), so I looked for jobs working for one. A sort of internship of sorts. I found a front office position at a physical therapist in Fremont, about a half hour bus ride away. I had to dress a little nicer than jeans and a t-shirt. I answered the phone, scheduled appointments, ran errands and also helped the two physical therapists clean up the exam rooms and exercise equipment. Sarah McLachlan’s song Angel will always remind me of that job. There was always a soft hits station playing in the background there.
I had an awesome roommate that first year. We came from very different backgrounds but she liked me for me and we made many wonderful memories together. I once stole a serving spoon from a restaurant for her. In our dorm room, it would be mostly U2 playing that year. I am not a big music person, but my roommate was and she loved U2.
The people from our dorm floor, plus a few others, formed a fairly tight-knit group. We would hang out watching TV and movies, putting on karaoke shows, eating, and laughing. The one thing I did not do, though, was go to parties. Alcohol and drugs did not appeal to me. I got enough of that from watching my parents. No matter how much pleading and begging they did, I never went to any parties. Especially not the Halloween costume party- so not for me! I preferred to stay in and do homework. Studying and reading was more of what I enjoyed doing.
Until Frankie moved into the floor. He was the new guy at the winter quarter. “Did you see the new guy? He’s so cute!” someone said to me. “What? There is a new guy?” I asked, incredulous that I could miss such a big piece of news. “Yep, the room right across the hall from us” my roommate said. Very much against my normal nature, I walked right over there and knocked on the door to introduce myself. In many ways I had come a bit more out my shell this year, but being so forward was still not like me.
He was a bit of a partier, not extremely so, but he would use his fake ID to buy alcohol and everyone would congregate in his room to partake. I don’t really remember why, but at one point I had my first drink– in his company.
There were two other kids from my high school graduating class who were also attending UW with me. One had a football scholarship and the other I was distant friends with. We had some classes together and did one activity together, but didn’t really hang out much. But we lived in the same dorm and would run into each other occasionally. One time, I invited him up to our floor and we drank together. He got a big kick out of that because I was always so straight in high school. Freshman year is when everyone goes “wild” right? Well I wasn’t too wild, but I did do some things that I would later regret.
My boyfriend came to visit over Valentines and when he showed up I knew that my feelings for him had shifted a bit. I still loved him, but there was so much new information in my worldview now. Including the cute boy across the hall. By spring break we would be broken up. And of course, I jumped right into the next relationship. Thinking back on this time makes me feel dizzy. Drinking, kissing way too much, sex, failing classes because this boy was all I could think about…. they were definitely my wild days. I still regret how callous I must have seemed to my high school sweetheart. Sometimes I wish I could explain better.
But I was intoxicated with a type of love I had never experienced– and I had had two long term relationships! A month after officially starting to date I would fly with Frankie to Georgia to attend the graduation of many of his friends. I think in a way he wanted to show me off to his friends. When we boarded that plane I got the worst feeling in my gut. I was a bit embarrassed, but I turned to Frankie and said, “I don’t know why, but I feel like something bad is going to happen this weekend.” He just looked at me and said, “Okay, why?” “Just a feeling I have.” I am so sad that feeling was right. Graduation weekend and too much drinking going on. Two of Frankie’s friends were together in a car when the driver started racing (mixed with intoxication) and they got into an accident. One of them died at the accident and the other had a broken leg. There was a girl in the car too, and she was pretty beat up. One of the saddest things is to be in a hospital waiting room with a bunch of 18-19 year old boys who were all crying.
After school was done in June, Frankie and I moved into an apartment with two of my friends from high school (one of which was the guy with the football scholarship). Two couples in a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment. It was a decent arrangement, but it only lasted a year. We had our first official Thanksgiving dinner in that apartment though. We invited everyone from the dorms to come to our apartment and eat dinner together. Everyone brought something. It was sort of an orphan Thanksgiving but a fun memory.
Frankie and I would end up getting married and we are still together with a beautiful family today. I can’t say that I really regret anything because it all led me here, but perhaps I could have lived a slightly better version of that story. Live and learn.