She's a character, she has opinions.

The Summer of 2006

It’s the Summer of 2006 and I’m reaching into my mailbox. I don’t know what the envelope will look like and I don’t know what I’ll do with it when it arrives, but I know what it will be: an invitation to my twentieth high school reunion.

Everything began just as it should have. There were SATs, college applications, and the scary realization that I’d be living away from home. I remember packing, buying a comforter that I thought would make my dorm room look cheerful, and I remember just once saying to my parents, “I don’t want to go. I want to take a year off.” Common wisdom is that taking a year off leads to never attending college at all and they feared that. I couldn’t articulate my reasons for wanting this time off to them, so I folded that comforter into a box and stood quietly by while things happened around me.

It should have come as no surprise to anyone that I did poorly. I was homesick, afraid, and, though I didn’t know it then, looking for purpose in my life. During the three semesters I spent in college I changed my major five times. I wasted my parents’ money on classes I barely attended and my own on distracting myself from unhappiness and uncertainty. By the time the third semester’s finals were over, I knew I couldn’t return to school, and it’s possible they wouldn’t have had me even had I wanted to.

It’s the Winter of 1987 and I’m packing my things. The cheerful comforter is covered in cigarette burns and ink marks, and I’m throwing away half-empty notebooks. My time being passive is up, and I know it. Facing the real world isn’t easy, but I do, getting a job and, within a year or two, an engagement ring. Everyone is proud of me. Everyone except me.

It wasn’t until my father died, many years after that winter, that I realized what was wrong. I had a house, a job, even a dog and two cats, but it wasn’t enough. Somehow, without noticing, I’d found my purpose, and it wasn’t copy-editing other people’s articles and wondering if I would be remembered for anything after I was gone. I wanted to make my own mark on the world and finish what I’d started all those years ago. I wanted to return to school. I wanted to teach.

So it’s the Summer of 2006 and I’m counting down the classes I have to finish before I get my Associates’ Degree, I’m filling out college applications, and I’m wondering if I’ll attend that twentieth high school reunion. Nothing unfolded the way it was supposed to, but everything is unfolding just as it should.

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Written by tldegray

June 1, 2009 at 4:20 am

Posted in Essay

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