As the season of fall brings in cooler weather, it also drags in old memories along with it. For me, the way fall interacts with my senses triggers memories of autumns past. Usually it’s the most recent year, but sometimes it will go even further back. Unfortunately, this time around it’s memories I don’t want to relive. But as soon as that smell or that feel hits me, it’s automatic déjà vu.
Four years ago, I was at a major turning point in my life. I was just beginning to realize and understand this fact, though. It was the start of my junior year of HS, and my ex-boyfriend and I were newly broken up. My heart was still aching, but I was determined to move on. After talking with a new friend, I started seeking God. It was the beginning of a new life, but it took me a little bit to catch on. Old friends began to drift away, while new ones took their place. My new BFF was Courtney Campbell, a freshman in Color Guard. Being boyfriend-less was not the norm for me, but it was good to experience time with friends for a while. It was new and different, and I started to actually like it. Yet it still felt like something was missing.
Three years ago, I was beginning my senior and of course, final year of High School. I was ready to get out of there, to move on to something bigger and better. Ah, how incredibly naive I was. How simple life was back then. Talk of applying to colleges started in right away and I knew that I didn’t want to be separated from Ryan. He had already graduated from HS the year previous, but was financially forced to attend a local community college for a year. His heart had long been set on Anderson University and he would make a way to attend the next year. I didn’t really have a college preference or idea, so it worked out that I would look at AU and schools close to my beloved BF. I applied at AU, Ball State, IWU, and SLU (because the later two were free to apply). Color Guard drama was peaking, HS classes were a joke, and I started to wish I would’ve graduated a semester early.
Two years ago I was a nervous, but somewhat excited new college student. I didn’t really have any clue what to expect, but I bought everything I thought I needed and packed my car full. The time sure came quickly to say a tearful goodbye to my parents, leaving them for the longest time I had ever been away. My Dad had a painful sore on his tongue for about a month or two previous, but we didn’t think much of it. Certainly not the “c” word.
Although I had to leave my family behind, I had my amazing boyfriend by my side. Besides him and a couple other acquaintances at AU from my hometown, I was a stranger in this new community. I remember being so tired on move-in day because we (Ryan, his mom, and I) had to wake up super early to get there on time. It was a 384 mile drive, 2 states away, way out of my comfort zone. In hindsight, I’m proud of myself because that’s huge for me.
I met my roommate for the first time and settled in to this new way of life. Freshman orientation started at full-speed, and it was a whirlwind of a few days. Before I knew it, classes started. I immediately learned that high school academics had not prepared me for college classes. After I calmed down enough to come up with a solution, I realized I had to teach myself how to study. September 14th marked a meaningful day; I met Nour, who would quickly become my BFF. I was ever so thankful to find a new friend with whom I felt like I could be myself. With having biology and chemistry concurrently, the stress kicked in fast. I clearly remember thinking… I’m going to fail my first biology test. What am I getting myself into?! This will be so embarrassing.
One year ago I was dragging my feet about packing and moving back to AU for my second year. We thought my Dad was cancer free because his CT scan in June came back clear. But we were ever so wrong. I knew deep down in my being that something just wasn’t right. He had facial paralysis and some facial pain, but a radiologist assumed he had Bell’s Palsy.
My life was about to turn upside down and I wasn’t ready.
I reluctantly said goodbye to my family and moved into AU. I immediately knew something was going on with my boyfriend. You just can’t help but notice those subtle signs after a few years together. I tried to ignore it at first, but that didn’t last long. I was only at AU for 4 days, but looking back it seems like much longer. I spent a lot of the time crying, fighting, and confused. What was I doing there? I thought. I felt so out of place.
I made the decision to withdraw from AU after two days of classes. I left AU with a heavy heart, but knowing I was doing the right thing. It was hard, and I didn’t understand the why’s of anything.
That same week came the heart wrenching break-up. It was ever so frustrating and painful, especially when I cut contact with Ryan soon afterwards. When I thought things couldn’t get worse, on September 11th my Dad had his check-up PET scan. We found out it wasn’t Bell’s Palsy, but a tumor in his parotid gland. I knew why God had sent me home, but it wasn’t for any good reasons. My heart hurt so bad that all I could do was turn to God for help. He began to guide me through the tough times, while drawing me closer to Him. Yet I still longed to be with Ryan and sometimes I just had to bare the pain.
Since I wasn’t going to classes, I began to substitute teach at St. James schools. I became friends with an old HS classmate, Tiffany, and I’ll never forget what she said… I feel like we’re meant to be friends for a reason. I also became friends with another HS classmate and old friend, Caylee, who had a baby girl.
Today, I find myself in a position where just a few years ago I would’ve said… Not me, not my family. That can’t happen to us.
I live in the home that my Dad built, without him, because he now lives in his real Home in Heaven. My heart is bruised and I’m just beginning the healing process from the past two years. I go to school at S&T, a local university, as a biology and education major. Just a few years ago, I would’ve laughed in someone’s face if they would’ve said, You’ll be a student there someday.
I remember clearly a year ago, I didn’t think I would ever call Ryan my boyfriend again. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have wanted to imagine living 384 miles away from him. I would’ve been thinking engagement would be up next, not a break-up.
Besides Ryan, I have a few friends; most are long-distance though. I’m still friends with Tiffany, and now we unfortunately relate in a heart-aching way. We have both lost our fathers from cancer. Most of the time I struggle with loneliness. I think it’s a result of many things, and will heal over time. I am certainly not in the ideal situation, but I remind myself it won’t be this way forever. I’m so ready to be content again, I haven’t felt that way in 3 years.
I’ve learned to accept the fact that I have no idea what’s in store for me. It’s scary and exciting at the same time, but I’m comforted to know that God knows every detail of what’s to come.
What will I be writing a year from now? Where will I be living? What school will I be attending? How will I be feeling? Will I have any new friends?
Wherever I find myself, I hope I find myself happy.