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.
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.
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.
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