The summer between high school and college were pretty much the same, sunshine and work BUT this summer I was also packing and buying new things for my first dorm room. I already had a head start with all of the knowledge that Meg had given to me, seeing as though she had a two year head start on Truman. I was placed in a four person dorm room in a "communal bathroom" dorm. The same dorm as Meg was placed in. I was on the first floor of Missouri Hall. I had called a couple of my roommates before Move-in day. Sara, the band geek from Des Moines sounded a lot like me which scared me because she was a little too obsessed with marching band BUT as long as she didn't play her instrument in the room, I think we'll be cool. Tara, a free spirit even over the phone. Let's just say, that was an understatement. Either way, I was too excited to see anything bad!
My dad and I woke SUPER early the morning of Move-in, remembering from our experience with Meg's Move-in day we knew it would get hot really quick and the earlier, the better. We hit the road around 6:30am to be there right at 8am for the
Meg and one of her friends also rushed with Sara and I. I can't even begin to describe rush but it was a total whirlwind of parties and clapping and games and cheering and bus rides to this place and that and decorations and dresses and its exhausting just thinking about it. We all had a certain sorority in mind of where we wanted to end up but Meg ended up getting one invite(to a sorority she would never be a member of), Jennifer ended up where she wanted and so did Sara. I got 4 invitations and no final bids..................devastating to me. I wanted so badly be a part of an organization like that and to have so many friends already built in.................devastated. To top it all off, the day I got the news, we had all gone to watch Jennifer's boyfriend in a triathlon, where we witnessed a guy die. Right there, in the bike exchange area. Dead. Emotional and devastating. That happened on Sunday morning and Monday morning was when everyone was going to reveal which sorority they were going to pledge, so after class I went straight to Meg's house to hibernate so I didn't have to be exposed to all of the joy and cheeryness that I had been shunned from. I got back to my room after I thought it was all over and my roommates said that there had been some people looking for me, from a sorority. WHAT, wait, which one.............. crap, not the one I wanted...............need to talk to someone............Jennifer, I need your help!!!!!!!!! See, Jennifer had been picked and pledged to the sorority I wanted so I needed her opinion on pledging another one. The specific one that her current boyfriend's crazy ex-girlfriend was a member of, crap. We decided that IF they came back to get me, I would pledge and I could always de-pledge if I didn't feel like it was working out. Ok, cool. SO, I went back to my dormroom to wait for that knock! And the knock came on Tuesday Afternoon. In walked two girls, Kate and Rachel, who asked if I would be a member of Alpha Gamma Delta. And before they got the words out of their mouth I shouted YES!!!!!!!!!!! And guess what, this was the sorority that Sara had pledged too!!!!!! They wisked me off to the chapter room in Brewer Hall(the sorority dorm) where I signed my bid and they filled my head with a lot of information about what was going to happen in a very short amount of time within the next couple of days. That night I had to be in a specific room in Baldwin Hall for out pledge ceremony and I had to wear something nice, ok. I waited for Sara to get back to our room and we celebrated with screams and laughter amongst the ridicule and sorority girl jokes, puns, and stereotypes thrown at us by our other two roommates and their friends. WHATEVER, we were going to be sorority sisters!!!!!!!!!!!! And they sucked, so we ignored them! Sara and I got ready and walked to Baldwin, I was a ball of nerves but a ball of really really good nerves. I was so excited as Natalie(our pledge class educator) called my name, looked up and said "oh, our president is excited that you're here!" WHAT???????????? Awesomeness! So we line up, bada bing bada boom, ceremony over and there is this girl pinning on my pledge pin. WHO, coincidently is my big AND who happens to be our sorority's president. Since I was so late in the game about accepting my bid, I didn't get ALL of the fun pledge stuff that everyone else got, but I did get a HUGE stuffed squirrel(our sorority's mascot) and a promise that multiple gifts were yet to come!
Needless to say, I didn't de-pledge, I loved every minute of being a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, during and after college. There is a huge place in my heart where I hold each and every member. I can't even describe how incredible blessed I was to become a member of such an awesome organization. I finally felt like that was the exact place I was supposed to be, at the exact school I was supposed to be at, feeling so incredibly overwhelmed with blessings and beauty and friends and opportunities. I had no idea that non-challantly deciding to go to Truman would end up so fantastic. I became Meredith at Truman. I didn't figure out anything earth shattering or epic, but little by little, with every bad grade, every good grade, every failure, every triumph, every setback, every wrong, every right and everything in between I grew into the Meredith that I think I always knew was inside. I wasn't the girl whose mom died, I was just Meredith and my mom's death was just a part of me and not what defined me. College was a total whirlwind of everything imaginable and I could spend years describing every memory.
The summer between my sophomore and junior year I was living off campus in my sister's old house and opted to take some classes to get them out of the way and work at the on campus bookstore. During the school year I would go to the Rec Center at 6am before classes but in the summer it wasn't open until 10am so I went back to my old friend, running. Running and I got more aquainted with each mile, each new course, and each step. I wasn't running a couple miles this time, I was running medium distance on Monday(3-4 miles), long runs on Wednesday(5+ miles, longest run was 7+ miles) and short quick runs on Friday(2-3 miles). I wasn't training for any race but I was trying not to break anything but really push my running distance limits. I carried this running program into the fall and I had just finished my longest run ever(7.6 miles roughly) one late October morning and was heading off to class when I got an IM message from an old friend asking if I would be going home that weekend. I had little to no contact with anyone from high school so it was a pretty odd question but I responded with a "No, I have to work this weekend" as she sent a message that said, "for B's dad's funeral." I. sank. and burst into tears. B was her ex-boyfriend from high school, and he and I had become good friends after their breakup. He knew all about my mom's death and my struggles and knowing that he was now going through the same thing made my heart hurt so bad it was unbearable. I fumbled through my backpack to find my phone just to open it and see a missed call from B at 2:15am. More tears began to waterfall out of my eyes. I quickly sent an IM to see what happened as I tried to compose myself and leave for class. I rushed out the door after my friend told me what happened, which was similar to how my mom died which brought on more tears running down my freshly wiped face. I got to campus and walked through Brewer Hall where Sara lived and wrote a quick note on her door to call me ASAP. I needed to talk to someone and she knew all of my ins and outs and I just needed to talk to her, to someone before I exploded into a crying ball of mess in the middle of class. She called me as soon as she got my note and she talked me down so I could go to my classes and work and not be a mess.
I went to class and work, where I got everything switched so I could go home for the weekend. I finally got B to answer his phone and talk to him a bit, although I knew he was super busy trying to plan everything. I wanted to jump through the phone and hug him and never let go, I wanted to leave Kirksville that instant and be there for him, physically. I didn't care if he wanted me there or not, I just wanted for him to know that i was there, within reach, if he ever needed me for anything. I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that he was now going through something similar to the most painful thing I had gone through and at times that thought made it hard for me to breathe. I couldn't and wouldn't wish that on even my worst enemies.
I contacted my Friday professors and told them I was going home for a funeral. I packed up and left Kirksville(but not without my fave travel companion: Mug Shot's Large Orange Mocha) after my Thursday classes were finished. My dad was already at his girlfriend's house for the weekend so I walked into an empty house and my entire body went cold and numb. Since we had moved into the house(in 1992) there was a picture of my parents and a picture of Meg and I on the living room wall. It had been replaced.................... It wasn't there anymore. Before I could think of what I was doing I was on the phone with my dad bawling and screaming and telling him that he was making it seem like my mom was dying all over again and that he was trying to erase her from the house that she so dearly loved. The more he said the more hysterical I got. THERE WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE ANYTHING ELSE ON THAT WALL BUT THOSE TWO PICTURES. I was so hysterical that he insisted on coming home and I told him not to bother because I didn't want to talk to him ever again and that I would be putting the pictures back on the wall, no matter if they made him sad every night when he sat there and looked at them. I didn't care how it made him feel. I hung up on him, sank to the floor and sobbed until my body had no more tears left.
Pekin had a home football game and since B was only a year older than me and his younger brother was a year younger than me, there were quite a few of my classmates that were home for the weekend for the funeral. Some of my friend's younger siblings played football and were on Harvest Ball court(it was our Harvest Ball game that night) so we all decided to go to the game. At halftime we were standing by the gate where the team would exit, and B walked out chatted with the group I was with, looked at me and said, "I tried to call you........" Talk about a shot to the heart. I was pretty silent for the rest of the night. I chatted with old co-workers and old teachers, one old co-worker told me that I looked like I had lost my sparkle. Apparently, I'm completely unable to hide my emotions and they were written all over my face. I tried to put on a brave face and be the happy, energetic girl that I had been after my 7+ mile run before I got the news about B's dad. I don't think I fooled anyone but I tried.
For the first time since my mom died, I was too overwhelmed to do something by myself. I couldn't go to the visitation by myself, I just couldn't. I called A to see if she would want to go together and she agreed. She picked me up and we headed over to the church. We arrived to a line out the door, which was an all too familiar sight. I had to remind myself that this wasn't about me or my grief, this was about B and being there to support him and his family. I used every ounce of energy that my body had to hold back the tears and not let my mind float back to almost 5 years previously and what I had gone through. I kept busy but talking to those around me in line and catching up with people I hadn't seen(and had avoided) for almost three years. We finally made it in to where the family was, and I purposely averted my eyes away from the casket and kept my eyes on B. I gave him a hug and didn't want to let go. I slipped him a card I had written specifically for him, and had avoided putting it in the general card basket at the front door. He was cordial and very matter-of-fact about things. I said hi to his mom who tearfully said, "You have to help him through this." You see, everyone had been telling that to A, because they used to date. I was just some silent girl who hung around A, apparently, but his mom knew I had been in his position before. I wasn't just a friend, but someone who had been in that exact situation and had made it through. Even though I felt so ill prepared to offer any advice about anything to anyone, she knew. Again, every ounce of me wanted to cry but I held onto it as best as I could. I nodded my head and moved onto offer my condolences to the other family members.
I was close to mute on the drive home, and as A pulled up to my house I was more than ready to hop out and run inside to release all of the tears that had been welling up in my eyes for hours. But instead of rushing out of the car, we ended up talking for more than an hour about everything...........life, college, God, etc. She was one of the first non-family members I told that I had been in therapy after my mom died. We made plans to attend the funeral together, I thanked her for being there so I didn't have to do all of this alone, we said our good-byes and I ran inside.
The funeral was the following day, A and her parents were going to pick me up since they were coming to the funeral as well. We got to the church relatively early but it was standing room only, so we made our way to the back of the additional room they had set up. As I stood there, thinking I shouldn't have worn heels, I was so overwhelmed with emotion. As the minister started, finished, and the music/picture montage played I became increasingly aware about how much people care. I realized how deeply everyone who had made the trip to my mom's visitation and funeral, cared about my family and I. It was the same reason why I was standing in the back of that room, in heels, bawling my eyes out. I had met B's dad a couple of times and I'm guessing he probably knew my name but I was specifically there for B.
The service ended and we headed out to the car. A's parents dropped me back at my house and I remember walking in, going straight back to the office, sitting down at the computer and just began to write. You see, I had this writing assignment for one of my classes: write about the biggest event that changed your life AND relate it to one of the readings we had done in the class. This being a Junior Interdisciplinary Class, the readings were a little mixed in genre and theme so that was going to be the tough part. What single event changed my life? Stupid question. I had actually gotten an extension from the professor due to the unexpected trip home, but I had a feeling I wouldn't need it. I wrote a 10 page paper in just under an hour. As I wrote I poured out everything I had gone through in the previous five years and what I had seen a friend go through in the last five days. A few minor tweaks, and the paper was submitted just over an hour after I had started writing it. I composed myself, gathered my things, and packed my car for the trip back to Kirksville. The paper ended up moving my professor to tears, and in future classes was used as an example.
A and I continued to talk frequently via email and IM and she invited me to her church's yearly conference called Faithwalkers. I didn't really have anything else to do over Christmas break, so I threw caution to the wind and registered. Meg was living in West Des Moines at the time so after Christmas I stayed with her until A and I headed off to the conference. We rode down to Tan Tara Resort at Lake of the Ozarks in Missori where the conference was being held. Two of our guy friends from pre/elementry/high school were coming too which was great. Being at the conference made me realize what I was missing in my life: church and fellowship. I was a Christian, had been since I was in 4th grade but I hadn't been to a church service(other than during holidays when whatever female my dad was dating insisted we go) since before my mom died. I was encouraged to read my Bible more, pray more, and try to find a church service at Truman. On the second to last day of the conference I got a phone call from my dad to tell me that a dear friend had passed away.
And again, I found myself gasping for air and running for the nearest door. This friend, W, had been battling something, which there is still no clear answer as to what, for almost two and a half years. Her and her parents had been to every doctor, tried every medicine, and had received no answer or help or relief of any symptoms. Her family and friends watched her deteriorate for the entire two and a half years and her body had had enough. W was the most amazingly bright, funny, spunky, loving, beautiful person. She was a senior when I was a freshman in high school. Her mom cut my hair and her mom's best friend was my boss at the daycare, which made us all friends. When I got the news, I had had enough. I sang the songs, I listened to the talks but all I wanted to do was get done with the conference, get home and get the whole funeral thing over with. Again. And then spend the rest of my Christmas break either drunk or asleep, anything to avoid feeling anything.
We got back to Des Moines around 2am and I drove to Meg's place, slept for 4 hours, packed a few things, showered and changed into something "bright colored" (it was requested by the family because W just never liked black and she was such a bright color person. AND she was an amazing artist who loved color) and made my way home. I didn't have time to stop by my house first, so I drove straight to the church. I sat amongst my old daycare co-workers and held in my tears. For some reason I felt that if I cried even one tear, my old boss would know and I had to be strong, for her. In my head it all made perfect sense. We sat through the service and afterwards was a dinner in the back room of the church for family and friends. I said hi to everyone, talked to W's parents and family. Gave my senior year prom date a hug(W's cousin) and quickly headed out back to my house to get some much needed rest. As I got back on the highway, the tears came bursting out of my eyes, blurring my sight, then I started quietly sobbing that got louder and louder and I began to scream, a scream that couldn't be hushed and couldn't be helped. My dad wasn't home and I couldn't bear to be alone at that moment so I drove through town and was back on the interstate to Des Moines and to Meg's house. In the midst of my sobs and screams, I called my dad and screamed, " I. CAN'T. DO. THIS. ANYMORE. I CAN'T go to anymore funerals of people I love, of people that shouldn't be dead, that should be alive. Old people die, and I've had to sit through two funerals in two months of people who weren't old, who had more life to give and who wanted to be alive. I..................CAN'T.................ANYMORE...................." I hung up on him, because I was crying and screaming so much that I could barely drive.
I made it to Meg's house where I sat and waited for her to come home from worn, in silence. It was New Year's Eve and she had plans with friends, so I tagged along. We went to her friend's co-worker's house where we played drinking games and I began to drink until my mind was numb enough for me not to feel anything anymore. I ended up passing out before 10pm, on the couch of some random person I had never met before that night. I didn't care about that. I really didn't care about anything. If Meg would have let me, I would have drank myself into oblivion the second I woke up that morning. I had to do something to numb the pain that I simply lacked the capacity to handle anymore, indefinitely.
I was numb for the rest of Christmas break, headed back to school and tried to regain a life of normalcy again. Spring semester was always my favorite, and coincidently was always the semester that I produced my best grades! It being the Spring semester of my Junior year, I was getting into the really really difficult classes in my major. The single hardest class a business major had to take at Truman was on my agenda for this semester: Intermediate Macroeconomics with Dr. David Gillette. Impossible. BUT this semester I was armed with something I hadn't had for a while: a renewed need for the Lord and a friend to help me along my way. Even though she was in Iowa and I was in Missouri, A and I had made a plan to keep in touch via text/email/phone/IM to keep each other accountable about reading the Bible, praying and memorizing a verse each week. I had read my Bible pretty consistently every night before bed, but this time I was not just reading it but understanding it and understand my desperate need for the Lord again, just like the night I sat on the edge of my bed crying and praying and begging for the Lord to take over my life after my mom died. I realized that the pure, raw desperation is what the Lord wanted from us, everyday. We need Him that much, every. single. day. We, most often, don't think that. We think that we can do life on our own, for the most part, and when times get rough THEN we can call on the Lord and ask for additional help. Everyday I grew closer and closer to the knowledge that I needed the Lord, that my salvation meant He would always be there, not just through the rough times and not just through the times I thought He could be bothered by. He is there always, so I started pointing my life in that direction, praying over everything in my life and of the lives around me. So, armed with my renewed realization of my severe desperation for the Lord's help, the Lord himself, A and a pretty impossible schedule, I trudged on!
Truman was full of incredibly intelligent students who weren't ashamed to tell you how intelligent they were and I got a pretty good reality check about how un-intelligent I was. I continuously found myself wondering a)how I ever made it into Truman and b)why they hadn't kicked me out yet. I hadn't flunked out but I felt incredibly beat down but I also felt that Truman was the only place I should be so I stayed. I was determined, probably more than any previous semester, to do well this semester. All of my classes were challenging in their own right but Econ was something that I really struggled with but I found myself sitting and engaging in that class more than any other class I had ever been in. We had homework every night, and I was also parked outside of Dr. Gillette's office everyday. I found myself not just listening to him but understand and comprehending things. Then came the first test. I was more nervous than I could handle but I sat there, answered the questions and handed it in. Not expecting much out of it, I let it sit on my desk face down when he handed it back to us. As I flipped it over, my heart stopped.......................................and I started to cry......................because at the top of the paper that had MY name on it was a red "A".
I was convinced he had made a mistake so I rushed to his office hours that afternoon and made him re-calculate my grade. He looked at me after double checking it and said, "You did really well, you really have a handle on the material. I don't understand what your question is." As I sheepishly answered, "I was just a little shocked, I guess." "Don't be, you're doing really well." he answered. I'm guessing I looked like someone had hit me in the face with a brick but I accepted my "A" and floated through the rest of my day, on one very fluffy cloud nine! THANK YOU, LORD(truly)!!!!!!!!!
In that moment, my attitude towards my purpose and goal at Truman changed. I finally felt intelligent, like I was right in step with every other student. I felt like I finally DESERVED to be there. I felt like I wasn't just going through the motions but that God had put me there for a purpose. My chronic and life-long self deprecation, took a back seat for the rest of the semester. As were all of my previous spring semesters, it was fantastic.
Finals were done and I had exactly one week before I was off to Spain for the summer! The previous summer I had taken two accelerated Spanish classes and one of my Spanish professors told me that I could go to Costa Rica or Spain and get my Spanish minor, SCORE. I was signed up the second the flyers came out. After my European backpacking trip after my freshman year, I was itching to go back. Europe felt more like home to me than any other place I had ever been. Even if I was so blatantly an American, I felt like a native of Europe the second I stepped off of the plane. We were set to travel around Spain for the first two weeks and then settle into our homes in Salamanca for the remainder of our time there.
My roommate and I(who had become instant friends over the fact that we were both from Iowa) were ecstatic to be going to Spain!!!!! My dad drove me to her house in Knoxville and then her dad was going to drive us the rest of the way to Chicago where our group was meeting. We were the two oldest students on the trip and the only ones who didn't have to have our parents sign a "drinking consent" form. We were already 21. I still find that so humorous. Anyway, "L" and I had no clue what we were about to get into. We had to write a paper and turn it in at the airport(we had a professor from Truman going with us who organized and coordinated everything. Sort of. ) My paper was awful, it was straight from freetranslation.com because I was so excited about GOING to Spain, I had just finished off the hardest/best semester of school and I didn't want to be stuck behind a computer again writing another paper when I needed to plan/pack! It took 20 minutes and it was, like I said, terrible but it was done. I was packed, so we headed to Knoxville to meet L. Soon after that, we were loaded up in her family van with her dad and we were headed east to Chicago. We stayed in a hotel just outside of Chicago because L didn't want to miss the season finale of Gray's Anatomy(ah, the beginning of my Gray's Anatomy downfall. First time watching the show was when Izzy's fiance died. I was hooked.). We bounded out of bed the next morning get a jump on traffic into the Airport the next morning. We met our group, handed in some papers, did some waiting and finally boarded the eight hour non-stop flight to Madrid, Spain.