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The Lost Years

September 29, 2009

I sure liked the Mardi Gras beads.

You know you’re getting older when your dream car becomes a Volvo XC70 and if you came across a pile of moolah you’d buy a front load washer and dryer set. But, I wasn’t always like this–so mapped out. Well, I was in how I grew up, as that was quite controlled with the path mostly laid, but once I broke out of my parents’ house the compass sort of went off kilter for a while.

I think this happens to a lot of children brought up in strict households once they leave home. They go buck effing wild. I’m incredibly thankful that, for me, this occurred pre-internet and youtube boom–but still, I know there are pictures floating around that would make it impossible for me to run for political office (if that was an aspiration of mine, which thankfully, it is not). Most are tame, maybe in the realm of Girls Gone Wild and whatnot, but cringe-worthy nonetheless.

It’s a period in my life that I’m not particularly proud of–about a six-year span (roughly 18 to 23ish). I sort of wish I could forget (parts of it, ironically, are very fuzzy), but I know those moments made me who I am today–the whole me. Never in my life have I been so off course and confused than I was during those years. In short, I was lost. September marks the start of many college freshmen settling into campus life, and potentially the start of the wander off the laid path.


I rocked that Esprit bag and hot-rolled hair all the time.

Like really lost. In high school I was an overachiever, my life pretty much mapped out. An athlete, cheerleader, pretty well adjusted and “normal.” I did what my parents asked, came home mostly around curfew (although being a twin there was some serious scheming and covering up for each other). Experimented, but not too much…

But, when I got to college it was an all-together different story. I, like most of my high school friends went to college. In my family, that was a given, even if you ended up at community college (which is what I did). Most who attended college fell into two groups, those who wanted to get the hell out of Leavenworth, Kansas pronto or those who were sticking around. And when I graduated, the University of Kansas had to accept any person that graduated from an in-state high school, which didn’t sit right with me as far as challenges go.

Some of my friends from high school had parents in the military since military kids and civilian kids all filtered into the one public high school. The military kids, no surprise fell into the category of getting the eff in their Toyota Tercels and never looking back.


My twin sister and I with matching Jane from ‘Melrose Place’ haircuts.

For some unknown reason (controlling father) I applied to ONE college. ONE. And didn’t get in. At the time, it was the #3 journalism school in the country, and my well-rounded, 3-point-something grade point average, class cabinet, etcetera, etcetera didn’t get in. Here’s to looking forward to a year of community college while on journalism scholarship and living at home. Unbelievable.

Being at home that year made me look at the town in such a different way than I did when I was a kid and teenager. Then, I had no choice about being there, now I sort of did. Granted, at that time, I was usually guided by purse strings and living at home was the best option for still being taken care of and not fully being an adult, but in theory I could leave of my own accord at any time. I quickly became friends with most of the people that stayed in that town after graduation. People I had never talked to in high school. The guys that did a ton of drugs, and girls who dated enlisted military guys as their ticket out. This was the beginning of me being lost.


My going away party when I moved from Kansas to Atlanta.

My own ticket out took a while. Several colleges, but, always the same degree path…but, with antics that now, in retrospect, leave me cringing in both embarrassment at my behavior and awe that I actually made it out alive. I transferred to the college that didn’t admit me the first time around as a sophomore, hated it, moved BACK home, transferred to a few more community colleges, wandered around aimlessly (as aimlessly as my family would allow) for a bit longer before ending up at the school I never wanted to go to. That was the best thing I could’ve ever done. I FINALLY got my journalism degree at the University of Kansas … after 6 years of being lost.



The things you’d tell your 18-year-old self when you’re 32? For starters:

1.    Study more.
2.    Have self-respect.
3.    It’s okay to switch to water with lime; no one will know the difference.
4.    A run every now and again wouldn’t kill you–and while you’re at it, smoking is disgusting and you’ll regret picking up your first cigarette– why start something you know you’re eventually going to have to quit?
5.    Drama is a distraction.
6.    Do not break into an indoor pool at 3 am and do no handed dives off the lifeguard chair into the shallow end–it’s really stupid.
7.    Even if you feel like you’re going to DIE, don’t call in sick to work because you stayed out too late. Get up and be responsible.
8.    Believe in and trust yourself.

I am grateful, now for those lost years. It took me a long time to grasp what that time meant. I’m glad I got to know that girl I became during that 6-year span, but I don’t miss her. I do, however, think she found what she was looking for and all that wandering has since stopped.