I thought I would join a sorority.
Meet a bunch of girls who would become my lifelong besties–you know, those 10 girls that eventually make up your bridesmaids, all with gorgeous smiles and matching light pink dresses. I imagined I would be in the front row at the football games, face painted, chanting our university fight song. I thought I would pull all nighters, date an athlete and have stories of the glory days.
But then I arrived at college, unpacked my dorm room, waved goodbye to my mom and aunt with tears in my eyes, and I knew immediately that college wouldn’t be everything I imagined. But I tried anyway…because I thought it had to be that way, and because I wanted my mom to know I was okay, know that I was normal.
I remember calling her from a USC baseball game one time, to tell her that I was sitting right next to Matt Leinart and that I was having the time of my life. But it was a lie.
I was at the game. And I was sitting next to the famous USC quarterback. But it wasn’t fun for me.
And I didn’t know how to tell her that. I thought she would be disappointed.
I didn’t know how to tell her that I enjoyed sitting alone at our campus coffee shop, people watching and listening to Norah Jones in my headphones while writing in my journal.
I didn’t tell her that I couldn’t relate to the girls I thought I would be my best friends. Not because I didn’t like them, but because I was at a different place–I was working things out in my head, dealing with the loss of a close friend, questioning my lack of faith, searching for my purpose in this life, trying to figure out what was next.
And that meant I spent more time alone.
More time with my thoughts.
More time with the few close friends I made.
Some were teachers, some were staff members, some were co-workers.
And each taught me a bit more about who I was,
and about who I was becoming.
This was my college experience.
It was long walks on the beach,
jogging in the rain with tears in my eyes,
curling my toes in the sand,
serving coffee to sleep deprived college students,
taking time to breath, and filling up nearly 10 journals with my hopes, dreams and fears.
Jack Johnson was the sound track of my summer, Norah Jones and Sheryl Crow mended my broken heart and Ani DiFranco made me feel like a rebel.
I remember the day I got the courage to tell my mom about the college memories that mattered most to me. And I remember what she said…
I knew, Ashley…I always knew.
And then she smiled–the kind of smile that told me she was proud of me.
Proud of me for finding my own version of happiness.
And she has supported me with every “happy” decision I’ve made since.
*you can read about my experience in high school here.