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  • My four years in college trouble me. I don't like to talk about them because I was a mess. They were hard, and I did not handle them well. I could (and should) have done better, but I was just a kid.

    When I do talk about them, I talk in generalities. I leave things out. I gloss over key points like working full time while taking an honors course load, cleaning rooms, engraving, fixing my car… Little Vicious.

    I called my car Little Vicious.

    Somewhere in a junkyard, somewhere in Ohio, there's a sapphire earring I lost in the car. I'd had them made when I worked at the jewelry store. They were cheap. They were little. They were real, and they were mine.

    The car also has the Tiffany tape that hockey players would invariably pop in the deck whenever I drove them home, and they always convinced me to drive them home in my stupid little car with the Tiffany tape. A solid chunk of the team lived next door, and my roommate's sister was dating one. I thought they were great. They thought I was good for a ride.

    I left home at 17, a few days after my high school graduation. I worked that summer as a lifeguard/kitchen staff at a summer camp, and then, I went to college turning 18 that fall. Then next summer, I worked at a seasonal resort on Mackinac Island, and then, I went back to school for my 19th birthday and my absolute worst academic semester. I almost failed half my classes. Maybe I should have.

    My sister got married that fall, and I missed a week of school. My roommate moved out. My mom packed up the house and sold most of our things over parents' weekend, and just after Christmas, she moved to Antigua.

    Our stepdad left first – back in September, around my birthday – and then, my mom. My brother spent Christmas with Dad and his family, while my mom, sister, and brother-in-law stayed a few days at my stepdad's former cabin, and I prepped it for sale, taking out the personal items and locking things up. I had to find someplace to stay for the rest of the break because my dorm was closed, and then, I drove myself back to school.

    That semester was my worst but also my best because that's when I started working at The BG News. I'd been writing, rewriting, and editing papers for people; copy editing seemed a great fit, so I applied. It didn't pay much. It really paid nothing at all (like $50 for the year) so I found another job (at a jewelry store where they treated me like family), and I found my place at BG.

    I switched majors. I made friends. Over Christmas, I housesat for the guy who ran my high school gifted and talented program (Doc) and his wife, but over spring break, I stayed with Boyle in the apartment over his dad's hardware store, an apartment without a shower curtain, and in the summer, between dorm closing and apartment-lease starting, I stayed with Ross.

    At some point, I went back to my hometown to collect the rest of my mom's stuff, and I moved it to BG where I paid for storage for the next couple of years. My brother came back to Ohio. I was 19 and working four jobs; he was 18 and going into his senior year of high school. He spent about a month on my couch. Then, he went to live with our stepdad's ex-wife, her husband, and their respective kids in our home town. When he graduated, he came back to Bowling Green where he was a freshman and I was a senior.

    The last two years were kind of a blur. I drank too much. Worked too much. Ate crap. Slept little. I started falling a lot. Getting hurt. Failing to recognize people I knew. Sometimes, I hallucinated. More than anything, though, I remember being tired. Really, really tired.

    I worked full time between the jewelry store and the news so I could pay to live and keep my car running so that I could get to work so I could pay to live… It didn't stop. I did, however. I stopped buying books. I should have stopped working at the paper because it took so many hours and paid so very little, but it counted as my internship(s). Besides, I didn't know what else to do.

    The people from The News were my best friends. They were pretty much my only friends for a while, as my roommate and her best friend from high school systematically slept with every guy in whom I had expressed even the slightest of interest, much less dated over the course of a year. The best friend advised me to stop dating a cop because he'd left her handcuffed to his bed for over an hour. (She'd met him in my apartment when he was leaving my room. I did stop dating him but figured she deserved the handcuffs.) I spent my senior year trying to live down my roommate's reputation because mutual acquaintances thought I was the "friend" who'd been involved in a train, bang gang thing one summer night.

    I spent my days in classes or work, and my nights at The News. We worked together, studied together, ate and drank at each others' sides. Over the summer, my friends from The News drove to Toledo when I was working job #3 because the only way to see me was to drive to Toledo and come through my line in the middle of the night. They brought me food. They gave me shelter. They saw me fall down, forget, and pass out. They saw me at my worst, and they loved me anyway.

    For some reason I don't quite understand, these people still love me. For my birthday, one family gave me papers of "adult adoption," signed by all five family members (including the 7-year-old). Another introduced me to his boys as one of his "absolute favorite people on earth." These are people who send me messages, out of the blue, saying they were talking about their favorite people at work, and my name came up. I love them deeply, and they make me feel loved.

    Now that I've started, I cannot seem to stop, but I don't want to keep remembering. It's too much.

    I just wanted to let you know why I wanted to share the weekend. I wanted you to know these people and for them to know you because they helped me grow up. They are important to me. So are you.
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