Nine years ago today (okay, not actually today -- really August 18th, but work with me), I finally decided to leave home and go to college. I'd spent three years living at home after high school, attending a small junior college, and praying that my mundane boring life would be changed instantly. Somewhere during the early spring of 1999, something clicked in my brain that, if I stayed in my hometown, I was going to wind up like everyone else.
and Frankly,... I couldn't live like that any longer.
For years (and I mean YEARS), my father had pestered me about going away to college. Both of my parents are college graduates, and they both understood the emotional and social growth that I desperately needed.
The reality was that, as a senior in high school, I wanted to graduate on Friday night, and get married on Saturday, and just jump headfirst into this life I had fantasized about. Thankfully, God had other plans.
Me as a 17-year old bride = DISASTER.
I sent off my acceptance letter in April. My mom and Dad both asked me DAILY if I'd heard anything. About three weeks after I sent off my application, my mom called me at work to ask if I'd heard anything. I'm pretty sure I yelled at her for bugging me about college. Because I really didn't want to go away. I didn't want to leave my mundane life that I was actually starting to like. My faux-dreams were kinda nice. So I grudgingly called the admissions office:
Me: "Hi, my name is JLC, and my parents are driving me crazy to find out if I've been accepted. Can you help me?"
Admin counselor: "Yeah sure, just hang on."
Admin counselor: "Congrats JLC, I'd like to welcome you to Lee University in the fall!"
Me: (choking back shock and tears) "Thanks."
I promptly hung up the phone and hid in a bathroom and cried for two hours. I finally had to breakdown and call my mother, but I very distinctly being angry and her and my Dad. I was angry that she was pushing me, angry that they weren't happy with my mediocre life, angry that the stupid guy could tell me that I had been accepted over the phone. I told my Mom and Aunt, swore them to secrecy, and didn't tell anybody for three days.
The months, weeks, and days leading up to leaving my hometown were every emotion that I could possibly imagine. Excitement about a new adventure, sadness for leaving my mom, Relief that I wouldn't wind up like everyone else, and fear that I would not be accepted. I spent all day Thursday packing and preparing, washing clothes, loading my car, figuring out what I needing, and making lists. I'd spent days and nights daydreaming about the people I was going to meet, my husband and how I'd run into him nonchalantly in the dining hall, meeting my future bridesmaids, and graduating magna cum laude. Thursday night, I got NO sleep. On Friday, my car was packed, my mom's car was packed, and we headed off. We had to make one pit stop in Atlanta to buy my first new computer. I cried the entire time we were in Best Buy. I knew it was because I wouldn't be taking this thing home, to set up in my room, to email my friends, and figure out exactly how to use the internet. It was going to be used to email my mom and tell her how much I missed her, and to email my brother who was leaving for college the next week, to tell him how much I missed him. It was indeed overwhelming.
But the time we finally arrived on campus, we parked our cars separately, My mom got in the car with me, and we headed off to find my dorm, my R.D., and start my new life. It took us time to get unpacked, all the while trying to meet new people, watching other girls set up their rooms, watching families cry, and trying to keep our own composure. It was hot as all get out, and after making umpteen trips to the car, and up 15 stairs, we were wiped out. And then it dawned on us all the things we needed from Wal-Mart. The first time I walked in WM in CleveVegas... I remember thinking that it didn't look like my Wal-mart. I didn't know the cashiers, or wouldn't run into anyone I knew. It was so bizarre.
$700 and four trips back to Wal-mart... we finally were able to see some semblance in my room. We even made sweet tea! My mom taught me tricks and gave me all kinds of tips. She encouraged me to let her put my room together, and go out and meet people.
It was terrifying.
All the while, I knew I wanted to make it so she couldn't leave me. I didn't want to go home, but I didn't want to be without her.
The next morning, we had an orientation session, and a young guy got up and sang these words (that I have not forgotten in NINE years):
"I'm so happy I'm in college; I"m so sad, I miss my Mommy".
I literally fell apart in the balcony of the Conn Center. But I was too terrified that I was going to miss something, so I had to just wipe the tears and snot away and pray that nobody was watching me.
The rest of Saturday was a blur to me... only because I knew Sunday was coming. My mom and I went to church, and then went to Applebee's. I cried the whole lunch because I knew the moment had arrived where she would have to go. It was awful and scary, and as much as I wanted to stop it... I knew I had to endure it.
I knew that in just 48 hours... my whole life had changed and I would never be the same.
Over the following weeks and months, I met girls I wanted to be like, guys I wanted to marry, and the club I desperately wanted to belong to. I talked alot and listened alot, introduced myself multiple times daily, and called home as often as possible.
Looking back now, I see how much really did change in those first 48 hours. I also see how much changed over the last nine years... finding my first love, having my heart broken, getting into that club, being friends with those girls, going to the weddings of those boys, finding another love, and figuring out who I was.
Also finding out that, everybody back home though I'd only last three weeks before I came back.
I am not the 20 year old that walked on that campus that day. But in order to be who I am, I had to find her first. Finding that strength was one of the greatest discoveries of my life. Realizing where that strength came from... only from Heaven.