I recently saw someone tweet about how she saw several moms and their college-bound sons in the sheet aisle in Target, sons seemingly nonchalant about their nearing independence, and moms getting teary-eyed. My first thought was one of longing: "Oh, Target!" And the second, after I did a little math, was, "Hey...I was starting college ten years ago!"
I tried to find some appropriate photos for a post on going off to college a decade ago, and thankfully for us all, they're on my external hard drive...in the U.S. Instead of a reminder of that transitional and strangely awkward time in life (it was for me, anyway, especially as a freshman), here's one of Chattanooga, right down the mountain from where I studied at Covenant College.
About this time ten years ago, classes had already started and Labor Day weekend was in sight. I was a History major, secondary education minor settling into life on Lookout Mountain, and adjusting to my newfound freedom. (Ironically, this freedom meant being on a mountain without a car. And this was before Lookout Mountain got a Starbucks, people.)
But let's back up to early July of 2005. We were packing up our 1,000 square foot home in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and I was so ready to move. I was (supposedly) ready for a change of scenery, and ready for all things new. I'd chosen to attend Covenant College, not as far away from home as Ole Miss, but farther--and ever-so-slightly less isolated--than Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina (where peoples' bumper stickers appropriately say, Due West of What?). Mid-July we found ourselves in Greenville, SC, moving into a rental home, temporary until my parents knew where they wanted to live in town. And mid-August, I was packing up and on the road to 14049 Scenic Highway, Lookout Mountain, GA.
Saturday night was my first night in the dorm, and though my parents were still in town, I thought it would be good to be at school that night and meet up with my parents in the morning for church. Most kids on their first night of being away from home probably go to Waffle House and drink coffee till midnight and then watch a movie with all their new roomies and friends. I, however, was bawling my eyes out on my bed and my roommate, who I'd just met earlier that day, was sweetly scratching my back and talking me through my near panic-attack-inducing fears. (She probably was wondering what she'd gotten herself into having me as a roommate...) Saying goodbye to my parents the next day after church meant a repeat of crying myself a river alone in my room.
I was a mess.
But I settled in. I studied too much and and tried to figure out how to balance life, an only-child-introvert suddenly living on a hall with 22 girls. I changed my major a few times, made friends, went polar bearing with my roommate (meaning that we went swimming in a lake while it was snowing...perhaps not the brightest idea), and skinny dipping with my hall mates (true story...I don't think I have to define that one). And I did go to Waffle House and drink coffee till midnight and then watch movies with friends.
Fast forward ten years. Never in my life could I have imagined being where I am right now. A high school teacher told my senior AP English lit class that as she got older, "every stage of life just keeps getting better." I didn't believe her at the time, thinking that she was just old ("old" = early thirties...yikes) and trying to convince herself that life was still exciting. But now, I know what she's talking about. It does just keep getting better. Being eighteen was fun, but being twenty-eight? Even better.
Not that better means more exciting and it certainly doesn't mean easier. But better does mean more fulfilling, richer. I've learned a lot along the way these first ten years since going to college, and I wouldn't trade it for all of the energy I had when I could stay up at Waffle House and drink coffee until the wee hours of the morning. I know myself better: my limits, my gifts, and my desires.
I haven't "arrived", but I have a better, slightly-less-muddled view of where I'm going. I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I'm learning more about what I don't want to be.
What will the next ten years hold?
Where were YOU ten years ago? How has life changed? What have you learned about yourself?