Part I: True Love
Everyone always said I was too sheltered, that I'd become a rebel and be "dancing on tables" when I got to college. Well, here I am now at Harvard - my dream school! - I'm not a rebel, and I'm perfectly content. Those were the thoughts running through my head one March, the spring of my freshman year in college.
That day I remember being bombarded by memories of high school; it was like a home video playing in my head. I pictured myself getting up at the crack of dawn to get on the bus, going to school and having lunch with friends, and studying frequently. The problem was, I always thought I was content. I wanted to believe my life was great. But like every other teenager girl, there was a wistful side of me that wanted change.
Sure, people were right, I was sheltered. Somehow I made it through America's wonderful public school system without becoming entirely corrupted. Somehow I managed to avoid all those pot-smoking, beer-drinking, negative influences.
I guess I was a good child when I was younger; my parents nagged me all the time to "Stay motivated Honey! That's the best way toget through school and get a good job." I guess that nagging must've gotten through to me because I always got decent grades. And by decent, I mean I never made a B in my whole life. Somehow though, I still had a social life. I never was "popular" but I had a few close friends that I always knew would be there for me.
As well as my friends and family thought they knew me though, they never really did. No one did. I was always shy, yet confident and put together on the outside, while on the inside, I was a total wreck. I longed to be noticed, to be complimented more often, to be in the thick of the popular crowd. Yet part of me knew that becoming popular would never give me true happiness - I mean, after all, most of the high school preps and jocks were just a bunch of friends who backstabbed each other all the time. They supposedly had a lot of influence and were liked by everyone, but the truth was, everyone hated their guts. Looking back, I'm confident that I never want to be a person like that - I don't like materialistic girls anymore than I like chopping wood. I just couldn't see that when I was younger. Popularity was always appealing, no matter what the reality was.
Anyway, high school was pretty much a breeze for me...at least the academic part was. Even though I was never completely satisfied with myself as a teen, I had a lot more important things to think about the year I turned 18: college. I applied to several schools - Harvard, Yale and Princeton among them. I knew that my grades and SAT scores could get me in almost anywhere; they did, and I chose Harvard. When I was six, I asked my dad what the best college was in the country: his response was Harvard. From then on, my mind was made up to go there. With one huge dream accomplished, I had a few more desires to figure out along the way.
So there I was one day in March. I was back from my little rendez-vous with past and sitting comfortably in the present. It was about five o'clock on a cold, rainy day and I had just gotten back from Sociology, my last class of the day.
I was sitting on the sofa in the common room six of us shared, contemplating whether or not to pick up the book sitting right next to me, Sense and Sensibility. As much as I love reading, that day I felt too worn out to read. I'd just sat through a stupendously long and boring lecture about the inner workings of the human brain.
Being an English major, I'd signed up for Sociology simply because I thought it looked interesting, and I thought it might be fun - what a crazy idea - but when I met my ancient and extremely dull professor, that class became the drag of the semester. What I really cared about back then was writing. When I was thirteen, I found out that writing was what I wanted to do in life. It's become my outlet to the world. My middle school English teacher Ms. Kimble was the one who showed me that reading and writing don't have to be boring. She was really the one who influenced my college major the most.
As I gazed at the book's cover my thoughts began to drift to Ms. Kimble. I wondered how she was doing, if she was still-
Suddenly my thoughts were abruptly disturbed when Kim, my roommate, breezed in through the door and proceeded to plop down next to me on the sofa.
Kim and I had best been friends since high school, where they went to the same little private school. It's funny, I'm not even sure how we became such good friends. Our personalities were almost polar opposites. I guess the saying that opposites attract can sometimes be true in real life.
In the four years we'd been friends I'd always been the shy, modest and studious one, while Kim was more of a wild partier. Kim was always pretty smart though - she managed to get good grades without a ton of effort; she was constantly juggling school, cheerleading, and a social life, her goal being to become homecoming queen someday. For me, I had to work a little harder for my good grades and I had my sights set on becoming valedictorian. Homecoming queen would have been nice, but I knew I could never win. Kim was really the type who could win, but I guess luck wasn't on her side, because senior year, after waiting for four years to get that crown, Carole Anne Mason won the title by two votes.
I did end up becoming valedictorian and it seemed like I got all I really wanted, but that wasn't what it felt like. Even Kim, my best friend, never knew how unsatisfied I really was with my life.
"Sense and Sensibility?" Kim was saying, a look of disgust on her face. "Why would you want to read that?" asked marketing major, the queen of doing anything but reading or writing.
"We have to read the first half and write an essay analyzing Austen's craft," I replied.
"Oh....how fun," said Kim, rolling her eyes. "So, anyways, I've got tons to tell you," she began excitedly. "I'm so mad! Chad, you know the guy I've been dating for a couple weeks, came up to me today and dumped me! He actually had the nerve to tell me he's ‘lost interest' in me. I mean, what kind of person does that anyway?!"
"Clearly, someone shallow and short-sighted," I said, looking sympathetically intomy friend'sblue eyes. "I don't think he was much good for you anyway; whenever I saw you guys together it seemed like all you ever did was make out. Relationships without real substance never last long anyway. It's probably good you're through with him now instead of later." Maybe that was the reason why Kim could always find a boyfriend and I couldn't: I was always looking for the deep connection...I was determined to find it somewhere.
"Yea Elle, you're right, like always," Kim responded, with a slight hint of jealousy in her tone. "Chad was too much of a jerk for me," she continued. "He probably dumped me just to make out with some new girl. Ugh."
"Kim, I think all you need to do is go take a nice long hot bath, watch a funny movie and eat as much Cherry Garcia as you want. I just bought some from the corner store yesterday. That should get your mind off of this good-for-nothing Chad." While I was making a genuine attempt to comfort Kim, I really did want to just get this assignment overwith without anymore distractions. Our four suitemates still weren't back yet, but I would just have to deal with each distraction as it came.
"You know Elle, that's a great idea," said Kim as she got up from the sofa and went to go get started with the hot bath. So while I did my work, Kim took my advice and tried to comfort herself with ice cream and movies.
The rest of the night was pretty boring; luckily, Ashley, Jen, Danielle and Jessica - more partiers like Kim-hadn't gotten back until 9:30, right when I had finished the paper, I was just getting ready to pop some popcorn, get my pajamas on and hop into the bed I shared with Kim who had just finished "Bring it On." That was of course one of her favorite movies from high school, and since I wasn't tired yet she suggested we watch "Someone Like You," one of my favorite chick flicks.
It was almost midnight by the time the movie was over, and just as I was about to turn out the light, the phone rang. "I'll get it," I volunteered, getting up and picking up the phone on my desk.
Who on earth is calling me this late at night? I wondered. The second I heard the voice, I recognized it as that of my loving father. "Hey Elle, it's Dad. I'm at the hospital now and I need you to get here as soon as you can."
"What's wrong Dad? It's almost midnight; I was just about to go to sleep. Is everything OK there? Are you all right? Why are you at the hospital?" I think he could tell I was stressed as I asked him question after question.
"Well actually honey, it's Mom. Now don't freak out, the doctors are positive she'll be fine, but I just really think you should be here."
"What happened?" I felt as if I had just been run over by a truck.