Acquired Skill: Acceptance
I share a recent vision board I created in honor of this story. I wish I'd known then what I know now.
It took a lot of energy to get myself from my first year of college in upstate Ny to my second year of college in Boulder, Colorado, but I did it. I didn’t have a clear & concise answer for my parents as to why Hamilton College wasn’t the right for for me, but I was sure. The awkward elephant in the room between my roommate and I was a deterrent so strong that it inspired a change of schools. I never told my parents about my intuition about my roommate and her lie she told about her body, and I certainly never told my parents that I’d read her journal to find out the truth, only to find out she’d read my diary as well. We’d backed ourselves into a corner and something had to give, and it was me, but I was thrilled at the firm kick in the pants the Universe gave that I needed a new school.
There was no new student orientation or welcoming committee at University of Colorado, because I was a sophomore, and each grade had over 10,000 students. A far departure from the intimate feel of Hamilton college. So the detour from “normal” college life gave me permission to create whatever I wanted from it. There was no college mold to fit into, no dorm life to settle into, no meal plan to sync up with and no group of friends to meet and connect with and have the common denominator of college life to navigate. Instead it felt as though I was thrown into the cage of real life itself, and I needed to figure out how to survive. I didn’t really know how, but I now needed to cook for myself, to care for myself, to clean up after myself and to get myself from point A to point B when it came to classes.
I’d transferred from Hamilton with my friend Jennifer and we rented a 3 bedroom house off campus with my sister’s boyfriend’s brother and his friend who was a junior at CU at the time. The house was in fact a 2 bedroom basement unit, but I paid a little less rent because my “room” was a large windowless storage area off the laundry room that we closed off with a long tall window curtain. We had 1 fridge for 4 people, but I mainly took up the freezer with my microwave meals. I didn’t learn much cooking from my family, so instead I was an expert microwaver and assembler of other random pre-packaged, processed or reheatable items. Nutrition wasn’t high on my priority list, surviving was.
I lived a short walk from the “Hill”, a well known student area on the periphery of school campus. I’d adopted a 3 year old blue heeled/border collie mix named Sadie just a few weeks before I left for my Colorado experience, so college life became about taking care of Sadie, getting myself to and from classes, and figuring out where I fit in, if anywhere.
Just as I did in NY, I found a coffee shop I loved on the Hill. There were 2 main ones to choose from and the types of people they attracted were quite different. The first was called Buchanan’s, and it was mainly fraternity and sorority types, and teachers, and the second was Prufrocks, a 4 level coffee & sandwich shop that had little 1 seater tables alongside big dreamy windows that peered out over the Hill. I felt like it targeted more artsy and creative types. I’d find myself at Prufrocks for hours several days a week and into the weekend; it became a safe space for me to hide in the open. Sometimes I’d be doing homework, sometimes I’d be people watching and sometimes I’d just be staring out the window sipping my hot chocolate and dreaming.
A few months into my time at Prufrocks I began to notice a handsome man who worked down in the deli making sandwiches. Normally I just stayed at the coffee counter and got a muffin and drink and went upstairs, but through the open stair way that lead up to the seating area I could see the deli prep area and sometimes I’d watch him interact with guests as he made their food. I saw him through the stairway often so a few times we’d lock eyes and he’d smile at me before I disappeared upstairs. I didn’t have the courage to go down and order a sandwich from him, it was as if too much time had passed with me just ordering at the front, so to go down to his neck of the woods down in the deli. But one snowy night as it was approaching their closing time, I watched him enter the room full of windows to bus the tables. He smiled at me again and flashed his startlingly blue she’s at me and we began to talk. And somehow that night I left with his phone number and a request that I call him. His name was Rodney, he was an art major and he was a senior.
Fast forward a few months later and Rodney and I are hanging frequently. He’s often walking me home from the coffee shop, he’s taking Sadie dog for walks with me, and we’re having 8th grade make outs while listening to music in my makeshift bedroom off the laundry room. He’d often tuck me in at night and leave, and I thought our relationship was adorable and of course going somewhere, because why else would you be behaving like this with a guy for an extended period of time (my 20 year old thinking said). Rodney didn’t say he was my boyfriend, he didn’t call me his girlfriend, nor did I ask for the title, but with the amount of time we were spending together and how long our rendezvous had gone on, I just assumed we were official but didn’t need labels. But I’d soon come to find out Rodney was having another experience.
I’d been regularly attending different types of sociology classes, because that was my major, and 1 day in particular on the last day of Spring classes in a gender exploration class, I couldn’t help but feel the continued gaze of a gorgeous girl 2 seats down on my right. I’d noticed her earlier in the class but we’d never spoken, because there hadn’t been a clear need or common ground between us. She was at least 6 feet tall, had gorgeous long perfect legs, curly long hair and flawless skin. I didn’t feel like I could relate to her for those reasons and I also wanted to hate her for those reasons as well. But that day she clearly had something she wanted to express to me so I kept giving her opportunities to come and connect by sending her a smile. And boy did she ever have something to say to me; something that would shift my world right out of the comfort zone I thought I was finding.
Her name was Nora and I came to find out that not only was she a part time model, but she also had a boyfriend named Rodney, and she had reason to belief I was possibly dating Rodney as well, who she’d been with for several months longer than me. I was astounded. But on top of that I was a pile of other emotions; I was mad I’d been deceived, I was jealous because she was so pretty, I was confused where Rodney found the time to have another relationship and I was a little flattered that he’d want me if he also had her (twisted thinking). I didn’t know how to handle what came next, as this was a first for me.
Nora wasn’t really interested in chatting about our common interest and it seemed her goal was to drop this bomb on me and have us go our separate ways, and it worked. The bomb was dropped and I knew what my next stop was. I’d be seeing Rodney at the coffee shop, but this time I’d be going right to the deli to see him.
I stood in line for what felt like forever and when I got to the front and met his piercing blue eyes, I smiled and said, “I met Nora today.” And that was that. I could see the color and excitement to see me drain from his face and it took everything in me not to punch him. Instead I leaned in and said, “you’re an asshole, stay away from me” and I turned around dramatically and left the coffee shop. I knew with my words I was also forfeiting my ability to come to this coffee shop since he worked here. I was grateful for the opportunity to explore a new hang out, and even more grateful that I knew Rodney was leaving town soon to move home a few hours away.
What I wasn’t grateful for was the advice I’d taken from Rodney to let his tattoo artist friend embellish the tattoo on my lower back. At his suggestion I found myself in his friend’s basement tattoo parlor, and I watched myself agree to let a stranger deface the gorgeous image I’d been inspired to put on myself a few years back. I wanted Rodney’s approval and attention more than I wanted my design changed.
Another lesson from college out of the classroom. Keep other people out of your sacred tattoo space and seek men who only want 1 girlfriend.
More on the tattoo journey another day.