Friday, April 13, 2012

my life: College Part 1

Currently doing a auto-bio series, hoping to reflect, learn, and grow...and for you to get to know this blogger better!  To catch up read "the kiddo years" and "the 'tween years" and "high school." :)

I'd like to say I was this dedicated, superstar college student, who went to only one college and graduated in four years; however, my journey to earning my degree was a non-conventional one, to say the least.

Here's what really happened:  At 18 had absolutely no idea what degree I wanted to pursue, as I really had no one guiding me in this area of my life.  So I did what I always did: whatever my older sister had done.  I enrolled in the same Christian liberal arts college in St. Paul where she had gone and thrived.  I cluelessly registered for a bunch of difficult religion classes, thinking I would someday be a youth minister.  I don't know why in the world I thought this...I guess because I had been so active in my church youth group.   Despite my preacher father, I am not, and never was, called to be in the ministry.  God bless those who are...but that is just not me.  
But, at that point, I had no idea who "me" was.

Anyway, it really didn't matter what classes I registered for.  I got to campus, moved into my dorm, and went wild with my newfound freedom.   I barely went to class.

freshman 'princess'
So what did I do?  Everything I didn't do in high school {well, except drinking and drugs.) I was nominated or homecoming royalty and won.  I was asked to do student government and to be a student ambassador.  I went out on dates and was "in a relationship" that entire first year of college.  I concentrated fully on hanging out...and fully ignored my academics.

Not a good thing to do, particularly when the tuition is more than 20K per year.

I had a TON of fun, enjoyed being my version of the"popular", involved, outgoing girl I never was at my high school...and thus ended up being put on academic probation.  No big surprise.  For some reason it didn't faze me.  I kind of just ignored it.  I continued to enjoy my freedom and social life.
Here is me and my first dorm roommate, Sarah.  Such a nice girl...but we had nothing in common.  Well, mainly:  She studied {a lot} and I did not.
Sorry for being such a messy, annoying roommate, Sarah!
I had friends...but had more close guy friend than girlfriends.  There were incidents where some girls were kind of mean to me.  Even some that said they were my friends.  I will fully admit: I was a flirt and just felt really comfortable talking to guys.  I think this rubbed some females the wrong way.  One day I was walking through campus and an older girl I had never talked to before started singing really loudly, "Whooooooa here she comes -- watch out boys she'll chew you up!  She's a maaaaan-eater!"  as I walked by.  I just kept walking, wondering why this girl was so mean, considering I'd never said or done anything mean to her, to her face or behind her back.  But what can you do?   Not everyone will like you.  Not everyone will base their judgements on truth.  Truth was: I only kissed/dated 3 guys that entire year...and two of them dumped me.  Such a man-eater.  :)  Don't worry: I'm not mad about any of it...I'm sure these girls were dealing with their own tough college issues.  Maybe I mistakenly was flirtatious with someone they wanted to date?  Who knows?  Plus, I really like the 'maneater story' now.

Anyway, being friends with guys was just much easier.   I hung out in their dirty dorm rooms and ate pizza and Doritos with them.  Lots and lots of pizza and Doritos:
Despite all the pizza and Doritos, I evaded the 'Freshman 15' by furthering my love affair with running.  One thing I really loved about that university was the location.  Smack in the middle of the big city, with I-94 out my dorm room window, and various high-rise slums.   Definitely nothing like it in my tiny hometown.  But on the other side of campus was Summit Avenue, which was lined with mansions {like the governor's and a former home of F. Scott Fitzgerald} and amazing, enormous trees.  This was where I ran nearly every day, starting at campus and ending up down at the Mississippi River.   I also spent a lot of time at the campus gym...probably when I should have been at class.

Here were two of my good guy friends that year.  We formed a study group at the beginning of the year in Western Civ class, three polar opposite personalities: the quiet intellectual, the jock, and girly girl. For some reason our trio clicked, and we kept meeting each week even after the class ended:
Not much studying got done...but we chatted about anything and everything, and ate lots and lots of pizza and Doritos.

Back to academics:  I ended up getting sent a letter at the end of the year telling me politely, in not so many words: "You cannot come back to this university due to your horrific grades."

It was shameful.  Reading that letter was my "aha moment." The moment it struck me:  I really messed up.  I had wasted the entire year: having fun, dating boys, and hanging out eating pizza and Doritos.  Lots and lots of...well, you get the picture.

I had accomplished nothing.

I didn't talk to anyone about the letter, but of course people knew.  My fellow classmates knew I never went to class.  They knew I wasn't coming back.  I didn't bother making excuses.  After classes offically ended, I moved from the dorm back to my parent's farm in the country, and had to figure out where to go from there.  
{side note: I kept that letter.  I still have it.  I used it as motivation to keep moving forward, and not let my mistakes get the better of me. I keep it with the letter that says I made the "dean's list" at the next college I went to. And the next.}
Life, at that point, could have gone two ways:  1. I could have I could have easily got a modest job in my small hometown.  Stayed living with my parents.  Maybe taken a class or two at the local technical school.  or... 2. I could move forward, forgive myself my mistakes, and make positive decisions in the future.  I chose the latter.
I couldn't imagine not living in "the Cities" -- Minneapolis/St. Paul.  My independence had been too sweet.  And I refused to believe my college career was over.  Despite my flippancy, I truly did want to be educated.  But what university would accept me now?
I immediately applied at a community college in St. Paul, praying I would get accepted.  I did.  Next I found an apartment that was right next to the campus.  It was not officially student housing, but the manager paired up roommates based on similar interests - 3-4 girls or guys to an apartment.  I was paired up with these girls:
After the previous year's lack of female friends, I was excited to have these two interesting, independent and fun ladies as my roommates and good friends.  We clicked very quickly and had a blast together the entire year.  One of them even introduced me to my future husband, who also ended up moving into the building later that year.  But more on that later.

Things were definitely looking up!  The same manager from the party goods store I worked at during high school offered me a job as a sales associate at a new shoe store opening at the Mall of America.  I jumped at the chance to work at the enormous mall!

I threw myself into work and school.  I easily got all A's at the community college.  I was offered a second job at the apartment complex, helping out the business manager in the office.  Slowly and surely earned a promotion at DSW, to a lead cashier.  I was making decent money for a 19-year-old, working two jobs, and enjoying school.  
This was the time I started really figuring out who I am.  Not trying to be someone I'm not {my sister, or a church worker,  "popular girl,"  or a conventional college student} but ME {a runner, a fighter, a gymrat, an art and literature nerd, a grown-up woman, an open-minded person, a city girl, a student who works full-time and supports herself.} 
Even being a dedicated student, I still managed to have a social life...but on my own terms.  I thrived in the more independent setting, rather than the chaos of a dormitory.  I loved having my own room, and doing my own thing.   I did not feel a lot of pressure to be super social.  Which is good, because I am just not a really social creature by nature.  I am an introvert, preferring only a few friends and a lot of time to myself.  As far as "partying" I still wasn't much of a "partier."  I still didn't do any type of drugs, though I saw it going on in our apartment complex.  Due to my lack-of-interest in marijuana, I wasn't invited to those parties.  I did, however, start drinking alcohol, but only on rare occasion:
bacardi breezer, anyone?
I started being even closer to my family.  I visited the farm frequently and made a point to continue to make it to holidays and the family events.  
sister pic!  sis heid, sil Jen, and me at Christmas
me and one of our farm dogs, cinnamon
It really hit me around this time that friends will come and go, but family is the most important thing, besides God, in my life. They would continue to be a priority and the people I love most in the years to come. Running, camping, and enjoying the outdoors in general  continued to be a huge part of my life as well  I went on the annual family BWCA camping trip that summer.  That summer I also ended up climbing   Mt. Temple in Banff, Canada with my Dad and various other close friends and family members.  Any time I spent in the outdoors, particularly with my family, helped me feel more connected to God.
on 'our' island in the boundary waters, northern mn
sister, mama and me during the mandatory stop at pizza hut after our annual canoe trip!
the group {dad is taking the pic} who summited Temple!
me: post Temple climb
I dated a few different guys that second year of college.  Nothing serious.  School was my top priority.  In fact, because of my excellent grades I earned a scholarship to another private liberal arts college -- this time in Portland, Oregon.  After a particularly poignant breakup in May of 2001, I made my decision:
I needed an adventure.  So I took the scholarship and planned to move to Portland in the fall to finish my degree, live in another part of the country, and "live the life I imagined."  (Not surprisingly, in one of my lit classes that year we had read Walden, and Thoreau became a literary idol of mine.)

I had everything planned, down to the last detail.  Nothing would stand in my way!  I was Portland-bound!

Then, a mere two months before I was supposed to pack up my car and move across the country... I met this guy:

Want to know the story of meeting "Hubby?"  Did I end up moving to Portland?
Yes, and no.

Coming soon:  {my life: meeting hubby}