Every August, as students across the country return to school, it’s hard not to reflect on how life has changed since I was a student.
It was 11 years ago this week that I moved into my freshman dorm. I was absolutely terrified making the drive to Tempe from Tucson, and had no real idea of what to expect when I arrived on campus. I drove in my car with a friend, my mom followed behind us, with a truck full of things I felt I couldn’t live without.
I’ve never been someone who takes big changes on easily. I need time to marinate on new things before I really understand and embrace them. And this journey was one enormous life change – the biggest I had ever experienced.
When we arrived at my dorm, I felt excited, but anxious. I was hoping for three main things: 1) a normal room mate, 2) a private bathroom and 3) to not cry. Fortunately, I lucked out in all three areas, and had a relatively smooth experience unpacking and settling in. My mom helped me get situated (mid-day in 112-degree heat, bless her) and then we ate a quick dinner at Whataburger – the closest thing to campus. And then, after she finished helping me settle in and gave me lots of hugs, she left to drive back home.
I remember having this sudden and strange feeling of detachment when she left. I was in a new habitat, all on my own. Everything suddenly felt big and foreign. My dorm room was an oxymoron – crowded and lonely all at once.
I lived in Mariposa that year, a small, coed dorm on the south side of Arizona State University’s campus that had once been a motel – hence the private bathroom. My room mate, Lindy, was from Walla Walla, Washington and an incredibly sweet girl, albeit somewhat prone to gastrointestinal distress and excessive phone conversations with a boyfriend back at home. In the years since I graduated, my dorm has been leveled and rebuilt as a fancy complex, and it seems strange to have a big part of history for so many people just vanish.
As a freshman, I never imagined where the next year – heck – the next four years would take me, and how my college experience would define my future.
I couldn’t have imagined the amount of learning, growing, happiness and occasional sadness I would experience during my years at ASU. I made lifelong friends, met the man I would later marry and set off on a successful career path. I entered the university a scared teenager, and graduated a poised adult.
It’s hard to remember the best parts of college – isn’t it all just one massive highlight reel?
Making new friends. Attending and hating my first football game. Going jogging on campus when it was 112 degrees. The slightly unorthodox student health center. People watching on Palm Walk. The scary sorority girls who worked out in full makeup at the SRC. Road trips to Vegas and Cali. Learning how to cook a chicken breast. Earning my first and only C. Concerts. Trips home to relax and do laundry. The first time I drank too much. Keeping old friends and letting others go. Taking a class on The Beatles. Joining my sorority. Getting internships. Expensive parking passes. Love. Heartbreak. A fake ID. Room mate adventures. My first apartment. Grocery shopping alone. Fraternity parties. Hillel. Studying. Cards from mom and dad. Making good and bad decisions. Discovering my love for writing. Keeping my scholarship all eight semesters. Karaoke nights at The Vine. So many dinners at Chili’s. Loving and needing my big bro’s advice. The 2004 political debates. Graduation. Growing up.
I could probably go on forever.
Next month I’ll be attending a career event at my alma mater. As a presenter, not a student.
It’s hard not to feel a little old when I consider how much times has passed since college. But it makes me proud. And lucky. And excited to give back to another generation of students. When you wrap all of that up, it just seems awesome.