This next phase of my life did include a lot of tears and trials. I'm fine with it all now; everything worked out.
I mentioned to somebody last week that I wish I'd had a bigger world view in high school. I went to high school "pre-internet," and although I was always a lover of adventure and change, my world view had its limits, coming from a small town. It didn't really occur to me that I could go to school far away. I don't even think I applied to any colleges but one. I actually can't even remember. It doesn't really matter, though, because I don't really think I would change much about what I did, even if I could.
I applied to Southwest Baptist University (an hour or so from my hometown), which is where I had attended Super Summer for so many years in high school. (I was also a "Mom" - counselor - for 2 years in college.) My memories of this place and the good feeling that I associated with it, were all I needed to be convinced that this was the place for me. I don't mind saying that my number one goal is life was to get married and have children. I felt that going to a Christian school was the best way for me to meet this goal.
I have to mention that I still had a boyfriend at this point (until partway through freshman year), and he was definitely also a consideration in my future plans. I didn't know if I would end up marrying him, but I knew it was a possibility. One thing I did know - I didn't think it was wise to marry your "high school boyfriend," no matter how much I cared about him or how important he was to me. (I know a lot of people are incredibly happy after marrying their high school sweetheart, which I think is romantic and wonderful. I just worried about it for myself.)
My family moved to Arkansas immediately after I had graduated. My dad was already working there. I wish I'd fully recognized how much life was going to change. I tend to think about life too idealistically. If I'd realized that things were never going to be the same with so many of the most important relationships in my life (my Missouri relatives we regularly saw and my family's best friends, the Keithley's, etc.), I might have tried to cling a little more tightly to them and not let time create so much distance. ("Keeping in touch" was harder back then, without email and facebook.)
I was still in the high school "social" mentality, and the thought of leaving town just like that seemed horrible to me. It seemed horrible to my sisters, too, but they were going into 6th and 9th grade. They didn't really have a choice. My boyfriend's aunt and uncle, who lived in my town, asked me if I wanted to live with them and take care of their young boys during that summer while they worked. That's what I did. They fixed up a spot in their basement for me. I loved that whole family, and they treated me as one of their own.There were a few other families from our town who were transferred to Arkansas right along with us. It was nice to have familiar faces around. Jared, who was a year older than my sister, Cary, went with us a couple of times on our Missouri visits. We stopped off here to take a picture during our drive.
I was up and down that road many, many times that summer and that whole year, visiting my friends and family. My sisters went with me a lot, too. As much as I didn't want my family to move, removing the ability for me to ever really "go home" again, the silver lining was the excitment of checking out a new place. We went from living in a town of 1,000 to 40,000. We thought it was AMAZING to live in a town with movie theaters, shopping centers, and SNO-CONE STANDS!
We also really got into hiking. Arkansas is obviously a beautiful state, and we enjoyed visiting places like Petit Jean Mountain and Pinnacle Mountain, etc.
At this point, I still planned on going to SBU. I had no back up plan. My parents weren't supportive of my plan at all. They tried to talk me into going to school in Arkansas. There was no way I was going to do that. They told me they just couldn't afford to send me to SBU. I totally understood that; I didn't need them to pay my whole way, if they could just help me a little. They were drawing a hard line, though. (The only help my mom offered was calling UCA and getting information from them.) I can imagine that it will be hard for me, too, when my kids start making their own decisions.
The problem was this: I could attend UCA for $850 a semester and live at home for free. SBU cost about $10,000 a year. (I didn't want to be selfish; my parents had 4 kids, had just moved, and were building a house.) I had a couple of small high school and ACT scholarships, but there was still a lot left to cover. I tried to convey that it was really important for me to be in a Christian school setting, as well as a small school setting because I knew I'd be swallowed up at a big school. I just know myself well - what it takes for me to be happy and successful. Going to SBU was the BEST thing for me to do. We fought a lot about this because it seemed to me like they were thinking about what was best for them, not what was best for me. I think they just couldn't visualize the two different paths I saw clearly in front of me. I think they realize this difference now and are happy with the way my life turned out.
I visited the SBU financial aid office and pleaded for help. I wasn't eligible for help beyond loans because of my parents' income. I was sobbing in front of the guy, telling him they weren't giving me any of this income. There was nothing he could do. If I had known any better at the time, I would have filed to become independent.
I hate not getting my way. However, I'm also very determined, and I will do whatever I have to do to meet my goals. I was realistic enough to see that this situation was not going to work out exactly the way I'd envisioned. I had to formulate a new plan. I've mentioned before that I've inherited this ability from my parents to do whatever it takes to "make it work." It has become instilled within me as I watched them do whatever it takes to make it, no matter what they were going through in life. (During my last year of college, when I didn't have a car, I'd walk 2 or 3 miles to substitute teach or wherever I had to go.) I can be rather lazy on a daily basis, but when it comes down to it, I have the ability to work really hard.
And that's what I did my first year of college. I finally called Mom one day at the very end of the summer and said, "Fine, I'll go to UCA and live at home. For one semester. I'm going to work and save my money, then go to SBU."
Going to UCA was everything I thought it would be. I went to class, rarely working up the nerve to talk to anyone. I was lonely, and I watched with envy the groups of friends walking around. I was used to being at the center of everything in high school, so this was a new, jarring experience for me. I went to class, went straight to work, went home, did my homework, and I went to bed. It was a quiet phase of my life, and I suppose I can find value in it now. I spend a lot of time talking to God and thinking about what I wanted in life. I'm also not devaluing the time I got to hang out with my parents and sisters.
I had my first experience of making "work friends." I really liked everyone I worked with (a wide range of characters!), and it definitely made work fun.
The best friends I made were John and Gina. They were dating and later got married while we were still in college. I was always the third wheel, but they didn't mind. I guess I didn't mind, either, because I was equal friends with both of them. I didn't expect to grow to care about anyone that year the way I came to care about them. I was even a bridesmaid in their wedding. I was sad to leave them, when the time came.
Petit Jean, fall 1994
I worked overtime almost every single week because I earned time and a half. I was willing to take every extra shift that anyone offered me, and they all knew this. I'd be working my day shift, and they often asked me to stay for the evening shift. Soon, I was also waiting tables, which generated more money. I also learned how to cook, and that was kind of fun to switch things up once in awhile. I took on the extra position of being the "lettuce girl." I just had to make sure there was always lettuce grated for the salads and sandwiches. I slammed head after head against the stainless steel work table to remove the end, put it in the grater, and filled the bags. I grated A LOT of lettuce that year.
I didn't do exceedingly well in my classes. I made a few C's, which hurt a little because I wasn't used to making C's. I loved my composition class, though; it was the bright part of my week.
Tracy and me, sitting on the deck of our newly built home
An exciting part of this year was watching the progress of our house construction. We lived in a rent house while it was being built. Even though I know my mom hated living in our rental, I didn't think it was too bad...other than there were mice. I was sitting on the kitchen floor, wiping out cabinets before we moved in, and a mouse ran right by me, provoking me to scream and run.
I think I pretty much kept all of my money shoved in the back of my nightstand table in the bedroom I shared with my sister. I have to admit, it was very addicting to see it pile up, and that is what motivated me to stay in Arkansas the entire school year. I made more than enough to pay for a year at SBU. I remember staring at what I considered to be an insane amount of money at the time and thinking, "I could really do anything at this point." I could travel all over Europe, whatever I wanted to do. I packed up my stuff the next August, though, and after telling my Dad and sisters good-bye in our driveway, drove to Bolivar, where my mom and brother helped me move my life into 2nd floor Beasley Hall.
my family at my brother's graduation from Mizzou, at the end of my sophomore year of college
I attended Welcome Week before classes started, which was a lot like Super Summer. It felt good to be surrounded again with such fun, light-hearted, people whose hearts were bent in the same way as mine. (I loved my Arkansas friends, but there were a lot of them who I just didn't have much in common with at all.)
It just so happened that one of my best girlfriends from highschool - Missy - had decided to attend SBU. I didn't know until right before school started that she was even thinking about it, so we hadn't requested each other as roommates. However, with all of the halls, in all of the dorms...we ended up two rooms away from each other. We thought that was incredible.
The night before classes started, we attended the student government pizza bash. I had a lot of fun that night, meeting one great person after the next. I was particularly enamored by this one guy who was already my friend. (He had went to a high school near mine and was a grade ahead of me.) He had went out with one of my best friends a few times, which is why I never thought about dating him back then. (Girl code.) But now I was thinking - maybe he's the reason I was "meant" to come to SBU! Toward the end of the night, one of his best friends from the previous school year arrived, and he introduced us. This was his friend:
And the rest is history. :)