Recently, prompts in one of my writing groups have guided my memories and pen backward in time. More Ouija board than overt direction, these prompts, about forgetting, remembering, standing out, blending in, have turned my pages back to the early chapters of middle and high school.
As is perhaps the case for many of us, I have a seriously conflicted set of memories about that time. Those coming-of-age years were not in any way my "glory days," but they included some marvelous, magical moments and provided a great deal of preparation and comparative context for college and early adulthood.
College. The proverbial best four years of my life it largely was. Despite being woefully unprepared academically, I was blissfully happy. I'd managed to throw my type-A, accomplishment-oriented cloak into Lake Michigan, watch it sink and race back to campus in time for the next party.
My grades plummeted, and I gained some of that freshman weight (you would too if you had Dan's Cookies on speed dial, ready to deliver warm cookies and milk at midnight; and/or kegs everywhere). I fell madly in love, lost that love, became friends with some of the women who are still my dearest soul mates, learned what real cold is and how to make a snow angel, joined a sorority and turned 19.
When I flipped the page to my final teen year, I was 75% of the way through my freshman year. I had and was sick of the largest, ugliest, warmest parka you could buy at Eddie Bauer, I'd ruined gin for myself for the rest of my life (don't ever do shots of gin; terrible idea; I still can't even smell it.), I played ice hockey the night before a midterm, I couldn't believe I'd soon return to Louisiana for summer break.
I didn't know what lay ahead of me when I tearfully watched my parents and sister drive away from my dorm back in September. If I had known what a blank slate I'd just been given, I'd not have hidden in my room for four days in fear, quivering until my roommate said, "Emmy, you just gotta get out there."
While I'm certain she said that as much for her benefit as mine, she was right, and out I went.
When I was nineteen, I'd just learned about the complete liberation that comes from being no more than who you truly are. Of letting people meet that truth from the outset and seeing where such honesty takes things. It was almost like returning to a childhood state of mind, before the veil of after-college-into-a-career slipped down as had the pre-pubescent one.
I'm certain this time of transparency (and relative lack of responsibility) is why so many remember college as a thrilling, watershed time of life. Why we look back on it with rose-colored (or beer-goggled) glasses and idealism and smiles. It's certainly why I do. Oh, to have been nineteen.
*This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post (just a little bit late) that grew from the prompt "When I was 19...". Hosts this week are Kristi of Finding Ninee, Mimi of Mimi Time, and Vidya from Coffee with Me.