As I’ve said, college was 1 big learning experience out of the classroom for me, and unbeknownst to me, I was learning skills that I’d use later on. One such skill was my intuition and ability to feel what people were thinking or feeling. This meant that if someone in my presence was feeling extreme joy or pain, I’d often feel it in my body as well, as though it were happening to me. This was not something I saw as a gift necessarily, nor could I articulate clearly what was happening, but I did realize that not everyone had this skill of being able to feel other people.
The first time this gift showed itself at an inopportune time was after Christmas break of our freshmen year in 1996. I’d already begun to decide that being at Hamilton College and living in the middle of nowhere in miserably cold upstate NY wasn’t the right fit for me, so I believe that made me hypersensitive to life. Therefore when all my 3 roommates returned to school from Christmas break, and the one from Colorado returned moving very slowly and had bandages and bruises all over her legs, I was curious. She told us that she’d fallen down a flight of stairs at home and that these were compression bandages to help her bruises heal faster.
My entire body prickled listening to her. This was not the truth she was telling us and I knew it by what my body was feeling. I didn’t know what happened to her legs, but I knew that she didn’t fall down a flight of stairs to create the bruises. “Home” life in our little dorm room became awkward because I became obsessed with the fact that I felt she lied to us and I wanted to know the truth. I felt her energy towards me begin to be very resistant and even hostile and it blew my mind that no one else was feeling what was going on in her whole demeanor. It was like she was becoming a different person before our eyes. And something had shifted in her physical body, but what?
We went on in this awkward dance for weeks and I found myself feeling more tense every time I heard her speak; we both knew the other knew something was going on but how do we settle this without talking about what I knew would never get discussed. I wanted to get to the bottom of this once and for all so on an afternoon when I knew everyone was on their way to the dining hall, I snuck back to our dorm room and found her journal, which she kept tucked away in a rafter above her top bunk. I opened right to what I needed to see.
I read that she didn't fall down stairs, instead that she’d had some sort of procedure done on her legs. But what was even WORSE than having my suspicion confirmed was what I read next. I read that she KNEW I was feeling something wasn't right about her story, because she’d read MY journal. When I read those words my jaw dropped and heart skipped a beat. Sure I was reading her journal and that was totally wrong also, but she’d gone into mine as well! At that moment I heard the door to our dorm room beginning to open which was weird because everyone should have been at the dining hall.
I panicked and tossed her journal back up into the rafter, and jumped down from her top bunk just as she accusingly flung open the door to our bunk room and asked why I wasn't at dinner. Because I had to prove that you lied you to us. Is what my inside voice said. “Umm I was just finishing up some last minute work, I’ll be right there.” And she stood there knowingly as I ruffled through some papers on my bed trying to look as though I was finishing something up but I was really just covering up my look of, you just totally busted me reading YOUR journal in which I read that you read my journal. There was nowhere good we could go from there. I knew in that moment that my time at Hamilton College was complete and this was the confirmation I needed. Now I just needed to find a graceful way out.
I skipped dinner that night because I didn’t want to face her or anyone else with this new realization I’d just had, that I’d caught my roommate lying and she’d caught me lying, and I wanted to leave this hurricane of awkwardness. I walked slowly down the hall of our dorm that night feeling desperate for some sort of an answer to this predicament, and I walked right into the room down the hall where I found 2 friends talking about their dislike for Hamilton, and how one was looking at CU Boulder in particular. And when I saw the catalogue for University of Colorado at Boulder sitting on the table in their room I felt every cell in my body relax and say yes, and something came over me, and I asked this almost stranger if she wanted to move to Boulder with me and be my roommate at CU. She said yes. And now I had a plan for my future. Goodbye Hamilton and hello University of Colorado.
As the sun set on this first year of my college experience I thought about this turn of events and how it was my own body and intuition that lead my decision making to begin anew at a new school, and I wondered what else this gift of feeling people would reveal? I’d soon find out but in a whole new way.