This is the first post in a series I am writing this month on being thankful
I only spent one semester in college - and I wasn't really there at all.
I had a dorm room, and then a few blocks away I had an apartment where I slept each night. I had classes, and I also had two part time jobs. I had a roommate on campus and a fiance in town. I was eating in the cafeteria during the day, and grocery shopping at night. I packed up my dorm room before Halloween, and by mid-November I had stopped attending classes. By March I was married. I had just turned 19 a few weeks before the ceremony.
I missed out on a lot of things that fall semester, and still had more than enough on my plate. More than one reason to request a withdrawal from school mid-term (a request that was to be denied, as it turned out).
I missed out on the mandatory freshman "orientation" class that apparently every other freshman knew about. You know that nightmare where you dream that you don't go to class all semester and then you have to take an exam in order to graduate? That actually happened to me.
I missed out on the computer science class, and the college email account. Ergo, I only joined facebook a year ago.
I missed out on having female roommates, and living in a dorm, and all of the bonding and fun and binge drinking that came with it. And that is why I love my book club and roller derby team and girls night out. The last 10 years have been my first real experience with having a social life that revolves around girlfriends. Not dating, not going out hoping to meet someone I could date, not going out with the girls to rehash a terrible breakup - spending time with other women on a regular basis with no plan other than to just hang out with the girls.
I didn't have any reference, no deep connection to other women, until about 5 years ago. I made my first really close girlfriends at the age of thirty. Not the girlfriends that you meet for a casual lunch or dinner - the girlfriends who show up at your house without calling and make themselves a cup of tea, the girlfriends who assume that you will celebrate the major holidays together, the girlfriends who will drive to your house when you call them crying hysterically at midnight.
And all of the things I missed out on - from staggering drunk through the streets of a sleeping town, to having fierce monkeybread bake-offs on Christmas morning, to peeing against a dumpster outside Jack in the Box at 2am, to sharing a bed with 3 other girls in a 2 bedroom condo you just crashed with 20 other people, to emptying the weed someone gave you out of your carry-on before going through airport security, to realizing that hiding camoflauge easter eggs in the grass is a stupid idea, to texting photos of people in various stages of undress to other people in various stages of undress in a neighboring hotel room - these things (albeit belatedly) came to pass.
I can proudly say that I have now experienced (and barely survived) all of the stupid shit I should have done my freshman year of college - at the age of 35.
And that was good, and fun, and probably needed to happen. And along the way, through all of the fierce competition and long hours of work, and hundreds of hours on the phone, and thousands of miles traveled, I learned that being sisters - because we are more than friends, we are family, we are sisters of the very best kind who share beds and food and holidays and socks that are "pretty clean" - being sisters with these women is empowering. And liberating. And while it brought a lot of confusion and chaos at times, it also helped to keep things in perspective. It taught me about forgiveness and respect and the support that only women can provide each other, really.
So here's to the girls - the ones I speak to every day, and the ones who are currently not speaking to me because they think I'm an asshole. I love you guys, and you have made me who I am today - just as much as becoming a mother, or sustaining a long and happy relationship with my husband has shaped me.
I wouldn't be me without you.
I have learned in the past few years to believe in myself, and stand up for myself, and to stand up for others. To do what is right. To not be afraid to rock the boat a little. To say what I want - and then make it happen.
I forgot how to do that. Or maybe I never knew.
Either way, I know now. And I am thankful for that.
10 hours ago