Fourteen years ago (give or take), I was a high school junior. I was an advanced-track student who took nine credits during the spring semester instead of the allotted eight. I also didn’t have a lunch period for a semester because I had to eat lunch in AP American History in order to slip over to my audition-only choir class. The year prior my choir teacher had told me that most students in the chamber choir chose between choir and the AP track because the school always scheduled the two classes during the same period, and there was no getting around it. The chamber choir had been a goal of mine since freshman year, and AP American History was a prerequisite for being a Valedictorian, also a goal of mine. When they told me I had to choose, my parents and I got approval from the school to let me skip lunch and be unofficially registered for two classes during one period.
I also was introverted and had my five or so close friends and a handful of acquaintances. I chose school work over Friday night social events 98% of the time. I was a homebody, and I liked it that way. When prom season came around, I wrote a note to the only guy friend I thought would say “yes” so I could join my group of friends at the dance. He did, and we went to prom together, where I danced a few dances with him and proceeded to spend most of the night in the bathroom trying to escape his presence. He had decided he wanted to have more of a friendship than I did, and I responded in the only way I could think of: avoidance. I side-stepped the poor guy so much in the following weeks that we didn’t really speak again until the end of our senior year.
In the midst of the junior year craziness, I was looking for colleges. I had narrowed down my major to advertising and began looking for colleges that offered advertising degrees. By my senior year, I had narrowed it down to four and mailed off my applications. One was a state school and the other three were east coast schools.
Many people didn’t expect me to go back east because it meant zero opportunity to come home apart from Christmas and the summer. But, I was an academically driven homebody, who had an odd streak to prove everyone wrong. (Well, let’s be honest, this is still me today.) I wanted to head east because those schools were the top schools for my chosen major, and I wanted to prove that I could get into selective schools. I also had this notion that east coast schools would give me a leg up in a career in the future.
One of my chosen schools was in Boston and the other in upstate New York. I had visited Boston before and hated it, so I didn’t expect I would ever end up there. But, after a series of crazy events, it was apparent that I would attend school in Boston.
I still remember the night before flying out with my parents for orientation right before the school year. The courage I had gathered up had dissipated, and I was curled up in my bed thinking of every last inch I would miss of my room and my home and my family. I had no idea what I was doing. When we boarded the plane at the crack of dawn, my confidence waned more.
We landed in Boston and carted my luggage to the hotel room. We had one last night together, and the next morning we moved me into my dorm room. It was my eighteenth birthday. That day was hot and sticky, and my first real experience with the MBTA (Boston’s subway system aka the “T”), and some of Boston’s colorful, snarky characters. The thought of living in such a place weighed on me as my parents left that night for their hotel and gave one me trolley token and instructions to meet them at the Faneuil Hall station the next morning. I wasn’t sure I had the guts to make it on the subway the next morning alone.
Needless to say, I found my parents the next day, and I stayed in Boston as they flew thousands of miles back to Oregon. I was homesick a lot that first semester, but I learned so much about myself and my abilities.
One nippy night in December of my freshman year, I was weeks away from flying home for Christmas. I was caught up on school work, and I wanted to do some Christmas shopping before heading home. I hopped on the T and rode solo to Copley Square to do some shopping. None of my friends were available to go with me, so after shopping for a bit I called my mom to talk to her. I distinctly remember walking on the pavement and feeling my cheeks turn red with chill as I recounted my evening to my mom. It was a huge personal victory for me to know I had gained the confidence to navigate a strange city. And, even more, I remember feeling very at home in Boston, the first time I had ever felt at home in a place where I was miles apart from friends and family.
Over the three and a half years of attending college, I came against many more opportunities that stretched me and strengthened me. In the trying times, I had moments where I didn’t think I would get back on the plane to fly into the fray. But, my stubborn need to prove people wrong served me well in that season, and I worked as hard as I could and graduated magna cum laude a semester early.
People even to this day ask me why I headed to Boston for school or why I stayed for the duration, and in the several years following, I stuck to the story that I’m driven and stubborn. And, I still tell that to most people I come across today.
But, nearly ten years after graduating, I have a better perspective on my time there. And, it’s amazing to me as I gather up the threads of those years and see how they have been woven into the timeline of my life. So many inexplicable events are starting to fit neatly into place, and it really is incredible to watch how everything has come together.
As much as I wish I could uncover every detail in this blog post, it would take days. And, honestly, I’m still discovering how many things have worked together. I don’t even know the full extent of everything yet.
But, I do know this: during the most harrowing days of college, when I received death threats and cried more than smiled, God was there weaving together the most amazing story for me to share. And, it’s my job now to tell it.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.