Be orange!

My first year of college was an eventful year in more ways than I had ever anticipated.  I was the only kid in my class who dreaded high school graduation; though I was excited about the new opportunities I would have in college, I was terrified of leaving my friends behind and starting over.  A few people from my school went to the same college I chose to attend and, as a private college, it was much smaller than the state universities so the class sizes were comparable to what I’d experienced in high school.

But I was on my own, for the first time.

It’s a shotgun wedding!
Photo courtesy of Kay Kauffman

I had been on my own before, but not like this.  After my mom died, my dad drank heavily and I was often left to care for myself.  The month before I turned eighteen, I moved out of my dad’s house – after being sober for a year, he had started drinking again and I’d had it.  I told him either he quit drinking or I would leave.  I think he thought I was bluffing, but I wasn’t.  I stayed with a friend (an older woman, her husband, and their daughter and her family, who were staying with them while their house was under construction) for a few months and when that situation didn’t work out, I moved in with my boyfriend and his parents, so I really hadn’t been truly on my own yet.  I didn’t like it much.

I went home every weekend.  School was only an hour away, so my boyfriend or his mom came and picked me up every Friday and took me back every Sunday.  There were a couple exceptions, but for the most part that was my schedule.  Looking back, I wish I had stayed on campus more and made more friends because I loved every minute I was at Wartburg.  I loved band bonding and learning to polka and I loved the pants my dorm floor ordered (Vollmer 3: If you can read this, you’re standing too close to my pants).  I loved stopping into the Konditorei for a smoothie while I studied in the library and I loved being in the FAC, especially when there was a rehearsal going on.  I lived for band.

The Wartburg College Concert Bands are like a family and when I was at Wartburg, family was something I needed.  My grandma died of cancer that year; I took it pretty hard.  She had written to me once a week from the time that school started until she was too weak to hold a pen and I loved getting her letters.  I found out I was pregnant that year, about a month before my grandma died, and it created a rift between me and my family.  When my boyfriend and I married quickly, I thought it would help, but of course, it didn’t.

Baby Paddlefoot!
Photo by Kay Kauffman

When Tomcat was born six months later, I thought it would help, but of course, it didn’t.  In fact, I think it might have made things worse.  I was nineteen; I wasn’t ready to be a parent.  I was still a child myself in many ways, although I would never have admitted it.  I wasn’t ready to be married yet, either, although for the longest time I was convinced that I was.  But I really had no concept of what it took to be in a mature relationship because I wasn’t mature enough for one yet and because my husband wasn’t mature enough for one yet, either.  Adding a child to the mix complicated an already bad situation.

And yet, if I hadn’t had these experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  I wouldn’t have a wonderful little boy (I can’t believe he’s nine years old already!) who is the best big brother around.  I took a semester off from college when Tomcat was born, since his birthday is right at the beginning of September, and when I returned to college, I couldn’t afford to go back to Wartburg, something which still saddens me today.  But I did have the determination to finish a two-year degree program and someday, I’ll get that four-year degree I started as a bright-eyed, naive college freshman.

Maybe I’ll even be orange when I do.

(c) 2012.  All rights reserved.

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27 thoughts on “Be orange!

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      I managed to finish that two-year degree with a baby at home and a husband who worked nights. Certainly not the easiest of circumstances in which to work, but I did it, so I’m sure you can, too!

      Something tells me I should listen to my own advice here and apply it to other life situations, but what fun would that be?

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      • Roger says:

        I’d like to but that would detract from my writing, and to be honest, that degree isn’t going to make me any money. At my age a master’s would be the very least I’d need.

        Like

        • Kay Kauffman says:

          I was working on a degree in English, so at least it wouldn’t interfere with my writing, although I’m not sure that I would be doing the writing I really wanted to be doing. I would love to finish a master’s or even a doctorate someday, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford it the way tuition costs are rising.

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          • Roger says:

            I really don’t have an excuse. Open University in England only costs about £400 per year; and that’s tax deductible if one is out of work. So I have to face the fact that I’m a lazy slob.

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            I wish it was that cheap here! When I went to Wartburg, tuition, room, board, and fees totaled $23,000.00. When my cousin graduated last year, the total cost was upwards of $30,000.00. Wartburg is a private college – public schools are cheaper, but they still cost tens of thousands of dollars. They also have higher enrollments, so class sizes are larger than private schools. My largest classes at Wartburg had maybe 25 people in them, but I’ve heard stories of lectures at public schools where they have 200 students in one class.

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          • mezzsays says:

            As you know I went to Iowa, and lots of my classes had 25 students or less. In fact, the majority of them did. Only the lectures had over 100 students, and that really didn’t matter since you were there to take notes (I really loved lectures more than discussion sections, to be honest). But the point is, no matter where you might end up someday, both experiences can be great!

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            I did wonder about that, if it was just the lectures that were so huge and what other classes were like. I also appreciated the smaller, more contained campus that Wartburg offered – Iowa’s campus (what I’ve seen of it) is huge in comparison. Even UNI is huge in comparison. The kids went to their homecoming Saturday and were utterly worn out after crossing campus a couple of times. But then, we were in better shape in college. 🙂

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            I’ve been paying on my student loans for the last seven years now, since I graduated, and I think I’ve still got another eighteen to go before they’re paid off. And since I didn’t finish my four-year degree, my loans are considerably less than most people’s – my husband’s loan payments per month are nearly three times mine, for instance.

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          • Roger says:

            Since our beloved government began charging real money for mainstream university education a couple of years ago, some people are leaving Uni with 30/40K bills.

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            I think the average American college graduate leaves school with something like $40-50,000 in debt, but if you go on to graduate school, that amount can increase dramatically. Doctors and lawyers can wind up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, depending on which schools they go to and how long they’re there. Most student loans are subsidized by the federal government and can’t be discharged through bankruptcy. Private loans exist, but the terms are nowhere near as good.

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            Well, just so long as you’re not being oppressed. Unless you are, in which case I’d be happy to come and see them oppressing you so that I could join you in being indignant. 😀

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            I’ve managed to keep a plant alive for almost a year now. It’s the second time I’ve done so. I attribute this largely to the fact that I am no longer responsible for the watering of said plant as it sits on my desk at work and the cleaning lady takes care of it.

            That said, I nearly killed said plant a couple of times already. Our lovely cleaning lady has been nursing it back to health for the better part of the last six months.

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          • Roger says:

            I transplanted some kind of conifer from the front garden to the rear, hoping that it would die, but the bloody thing is thriving. Maybe I’ll have to try some paint stripper. It keeps attracting the most evil forms of wildlife. Unfortunately not the cat.

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            My sister keeps trying to give me cats. Apparently she doesn’t think I have enough things to take care of. Maybe I should give her some of my kids – they might change her mind for me. Besides, she’s the one who seems to have inherited our mother’s green thumb.

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            I just realized I meant to type plants instead of cats, although she’s tried to give me both. And if my kids start leaving mutilated creatures outside the back door, I think I’ll be barricading myself behind my bedroom door. Hopefully they won’t be able to get me in there.

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            Then I guess I’m lucky I only have one of them. On the other hand, I’ll have three teenage boys to feed at some point…Maybe I should start looking for another job now in order to save for the groceries I’ll need in the future.

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          • Kay Kauffman says:

            They’re on their own for that stuff. If they want it, they can get a job and pay for it themselves. Yes, I know, I’ve got “Mean Mom” tattooed on my forehead. I’m okay with that.

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