Updated: Jun 17, 2019
I got my first taste of freedom when I was 18.
Now, I don’t mean freedom in the sense that I moved from a terrorized country to a free one. I mean the kind of freedom you get when you’re no longer under someone’s thumb, no one knows your every move, and you can make your own choices. I can’t say I had a hard childhood, because there are definitely those who could prove that wrong. But I did have a very controlled childhood. Looking back, some of it I understand. But it didn’t change this moment.
At 18, I found myself 8 hours from home at college....a dream I’d had for several years. But with the weight of that thumb being lifted came a sigh of relief, and then a whole new weight. The ability to suddenly make your own decisions comes with its own share of pressure.
Meeting the best friend
I remember that first day. The specific order of the day is a total loss. But I vividly remember standing in line to pick my courses, trying to come up with a password for my college email...I’d never had my own passwords before. My parents had to log me in to everything. How did one even choose a password? Things you never even realize can be a complete challenge. But it was in that line that I met one of my very best friends. I didn’t know it until English class a couple days later, but this person became my breakfast buddy. Long after we both left that college- and even to this day- we remained friends.
Then it was on to the financial aid office. Another long line. More people to meet, more excited conversations. It was here that I met him. He wasn’t one of my great loves. But he did change my life, for he introduced me to the person who would change the entire course of mine. And through our time together, I would be left with guilt for many years to come.
The financial aid line was abnormally long. Ok, probably not that long. But for an impatient 18 year old just tasting freedom, it took what felt like forever. The only solace was the 23 year old fifth year senior standing in front of me. “A” was a marine, and looked every bit the part. We talked during the entire wait. My insecurities at the time were so great that even when he asked for my number at the end, I wasn’t sure he was interested. I was not surprised when he didn’t call the next day. In fact, it was a couple days before he did call.
That first weekend at college was a wild one. It wasn’t my first time drinking by any means. Working at one of the most popular local restaurants in a beach town definitely had its perks. During the off season, it was easy to sweet talk the bartenders and get a drink. There was only one occasion where I almost got caught. My mom was actually awake when I came in on a Saturday night and she smelled it when she hugged me. I played it off asking where I would get alcohol at 17 while I was at work. The next morning on the way to church, she saw me applying a lip gloss named strawberry daiquiri, and decided that’s what she had smelled the night before. I never corrected her.
But this particular night was different. A sophomore in my dorm had gotten someone older to buy her a 5th of vodka. She decided to share it with me, and the two of us took to it like it was water. We drank 3/4 of the bottle in 45 minutes and then added a greasy $5 pizza. I was the first to get sick. On the way back to my room I made a beeline for the community bathroom, where my hall advisor later found me, and proceeded to call university police.
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