The most stressful and lonely day of my life.
As I understand it, things have changed significantly in the twelve years since I started college. Technology has improved the ability to select a roommate that matches your own personality. And, it is just easier to reach out to people in general.
Other than a couple of brief phone calls, I knew nothing about my roommates. The two guys that I would be rooming with, were friends who went to high school together. They were both Sophomores.
As usual, I had managed to screw up my application process and left to the admissions gods to select the dorm that I would be placed in… I got the worst one. Not because my roommates were bad guys, quite the opposite actually. They just weren’t Freshmen. They knew the campus, they knew people at school, they were veterans.
I knew no one. That was kind of what I wanted. I had no anxiety, or at least no memory of anxiety, regarding what college was going to be like. I assumed it was going to be amazing and that I would adjust perfectly.
The day came when we packed up the car and headed to the University of Minnesota. Summer clung to the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, making it an absolutely beautiful day. The kind of day when you wish that you are doing anything else but moving.
It started out as expected. Heated debates with my parents over where to park. Heated debates over where we needed to go. Heated debates over which cart was available for us to use for moving my things. Being the self-conscious person that I am, I did everything in my power to keep a low profile and avoid being seen participating in these heated debates.
It will be over soon and I will be on my own. Be patient, just a couple more hours.
We started moving things in and I met one of my roommates. He offered to help carry things, I swiftly declined (always doing my best no to be an inconvenience to anyone on this planet). I knew that I would get along with him and my excitement grew with thoughts of being on my own.
My outlook slowly started to change.
A lump started to form in my throat when I noticed that the car, once completely full, was beginning to look empty.
It will be over soon and I will be on my own. Maybe I’ll start taking just one thing at a time…
I moved slowly. Pondered simple decisions of where things should go far too long. I did what would soon become my favorite college pastime, I procrastinated. Doing everything in my power to prolong the inevitable moment when my parents would walk away and leave me alone.
All of the sudden the embarrassing heated debates were endearing, not annoying. I didn’t care if we yelled at each other about where my computer should go, as long as the stayed.
Please don’t leave, I’m not ready.
When the last of my things were emptied from the car, my dad pulled the car around to the front of the dorm. My mom helped with one last check through my room to make sure that everything was organized and gave me pointers on how all of my things should be organized and what my daily routine should be. At the time, I thought it would be the last time… Live and learn…
We walked to the front of Centennial Hall where my dad had moved the car.
The lump in my throat turned into a softball, this is the moment I had been dreading.
What do I do? What do I say? Don’t cry. Don’t cry.
It is important to note that I am an “unplanned surprise” (see: mistake). I am the last to have left the nest. Looking back now, this moment must have been just as hard on my parents as it felt for me… if not worse.
To say our family is a little less than affectionate would be an understatement of drastic proportions. We don’t do a lot of hugging. There aren’t frequent “I love you’s.” It’s just the way that we are. We are family, of course we love each other… or, maybe everyone else is saying it to each other and I’m left out? No, I’m the baby… every one of them loves me.
This makes for awkward good-byes sometimes. We linger. Telepathically saying I love you and I’ll miss you but never actually saying these things. I love it. It’s so awkward that it circles back around to feeling comfortable.
This time though, I didn’t want to say good-bye.
“Welp…” I said, making standing still look awkward as I tend to do.
My mom gave me a hug and said I love you. Not crying or even looking all that emotional.
Maybe this will be easier than I thought.
Looking back, she knew what was coming next and knew that she needed to be strong. I am thankful for this and amazed that she kept things together.
Then, I turn to my dad. Again, not knowing what to do or say. Afraid of crying and looking like a loser in front of the other thousands of freshman moving in.
He said I love you. We don’t say this very often and I am fine with that. It’s inefficient to do so because, well, he’s my Dad.
He gave me a hug. Eighteen years worth in one hug. And he cried. He cried like I haven’t seen before or since.
Now, my eyes well up when I think on this moment. But, somehow I managed not to cry as it happened. That moment was too important. I hugged my father and felt a lifetimes worth of emotion. Without saying anything else I knew that he missed me already, he was proud of me for the things that I have done and would do and I think there were a few tears at the end made of joy that I was finally out of the house. Just a few.
That hug summed up how we feel about each other. If that ended up being the last hug we ever shared, there would be no doubt.
When he let go. I said “well, I’ll see you tonight…” Because the Gophers had a football game that night and I would meet them in the tailgate lot prior to the game. Literally, we were going to see each other again in about five hours.
Still, that moment is one of the most powerful I have experienced and one of my most cherished memories.
They got in their car and drove away. I went to my empty dorm room and sat by myself.
I don’t have any friends.
I could not think of a single person that I knew. It is the most lonely I have felt in my life (my life is amazing).
I somehow managed to pass the time until I could walk to the football game. I called my girlfriend, back in my hometown, as I crossed the Washington Avenue bridge over the Mississippi River. The sun made everything look gold as it crept towards the horizon. Yet, I couldn’t appreciate the beauty because I was busy heave crying.
“I don’t… sniff sniff… have… sniff sniff… any friends.”
She talked me through, but I remember hanging up that phone call being so difficult. I had a couple of beers with my parents and my brother in the parking lot prior to the game and went in.
I sat alone. In the middle of thousands of students, I stood awkwardly. Too afraid to start a conversation with a complete stranger. I walked home alone after the game. I sat in my dorm, alone. My roommates were nowhere to be found. I sat in the quiet trying to figure out what I was going to do. How would I make friends if I couldn’t talk to people?
My phone rings. A number that I don’t know. I answer.
The voice of an acquaintance from my home town, over the hum and laughter of a party, asked me if I wanted to come to a party that had 12 kegs.
I may have ran across campus, I don’t remember. I got to the party, got a beer. Familiar faces started to surround me. I got introduced new to people and made friendships that night that have lasted until this very day.
I am going to be alright. I miss my parents, but I am going to be alright.
That day is one of the most important days of my life.
I said good-bye to my life living with my parents.
I said hello to being an, err, adult(?).
I experienced the most lonely afternoon of my life.
And, most importantly, I realized what an important factor beer would play in my social life.