I always struggle with what to say when somebody finds out I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder. They usually think my school choice says something about my college years.
People, especially those I encountered in Minnesota, often assume that I was an out-of-state student whose parents footed the bill for me to attend what was, at least at the time, a university with a huge discrepancy between resident and non-resident tuition ($6k/yr to nearly $23k/yr) and practically impossible hoops to jump through to qualify for in-state rates. I even had a boss who figured I came from privilege based on my alma mater. She told me she was shocked when she found out that I had made it through college much as she had — scraping together loans, grants, and as many after-school jobs as I could. (Plus, at least one year, barely staying enrolled thanks to a last minute scholarship that closed a $7k financial aid gap that might as well have been $50k.)
I’m sure that, without me telling them otherwise, people imagine that my college experience was wild and carefree. That it was the stuff Boulder dreams are made of — football games at Folsom Field, ski trips on the weekend, lazy afternoons spent half napping and half studying on the quad in front of Norlin Library…
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
Mostly it was figuring out how to stay afloat and earn a degree on 20-30 hours/week of work, a chunk of volunteer time and a full class load. Mostly it was trying to figure out if I really needed to go to the library to read the books that I couldn’t always afford. I think I’m far enough out to admit that one semester’s worth of Dean’s List grades was earned entirely on good lecture notes and participation points because books were simply out of reach. It goes without saying that, even though I desperately wanted to, I couldn’t figure out how to fund a semester abroad.
I don’t really look back at my college experience with wistful longing. But I don’t totally regret it either.
I managed to snag a fabulous husband. (Even if it took us a very long while to get with the program.)
I had some pretty amazing experiences thanks to my volunteer work. (I still can’t quite figure out how I got invited as a 21 year old to an international Holocaust educators’ conference at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.)
And I got Lindsay out of the deal.
As the summer of 2002 started, I was all set with two jobs on Pearl Street Mall — slinging jeans at the Gap and sandwiches at Panera. I just needed a place to live since the dorms weren’t open over the summer and I wasn’t going to stay in them after freshman year anyways.
Michelle needed a summer sublet for her room in a 3-bedroom Goss-Grove apartment. And Lindsay and Christa agreed that I was the least weird of the girls who had answered the Craigslist ad. I moved in the week after finals.
That summer was filled with a first love, a whole lot of Coronas, and a fast friendship with a laid-back blond girl from Orange County.
The rest, as they say, is history.
After I moved out for junior year (a decision I still regret to this day), Linds and I didn’t see each other that often. And she was already back in California by the time senior year came barreling at me.
We didn’t really reunite until I went out to Orange County for her Friendsgiving celebration in 2013. After a painful 2012, a few days in the sun with a friend who could help me remember who I had once been was exactly what I needed. We picked up right where we had left off nine years prior. It was a great weekend filled with good food, hiking, pedicures and the type of long, soul-searching conversations that you can only have with somebody who’s known you for forever.
We hugged as she dropped me off at John Wayne Airport and promised to see each other again soon.
Six years passed.
But then it was yesterday. In Barcelona.
Lindsay’s turned herself into an international woman of mystery and has been living as a digital nomad for the past year. She’s spending a chunk of the summer in Spain and told me there’d be a spot for me if I wanted to come and spend a few days.
Spoiler alert: I jumped at the chance.
And yesterday, as we sat on a couch only slightly more comfortable than the one we once rescued from a free-cycle pile, we laughed at how everything and nothing is exactly the same after all these years.
(Right down to complaining about the heat as we waited for the Airbnb host to fix the AC.)