As mentioned in a previous post, I am going to divulge the details from my past, well since graduating high school, up until this point. This June marks my 4th anniversary as an Ohio U alum, and therefore I feel the need to look back on all of my Junes, beginning with June 2002- when I graduated from my alma mater, Hampton High School.
June 2006. What a month it was. At that time I really didn’t think I’d live to see another June. But four years later, I can look back and see how far I’ve come.
Let’s start with Graduation Day. Much to my dismay, and hope that a whole Disney miracle occurring-preferably me waking up to find myself on the first day of college all over again instead of the last.
Here are some of my fellow Class of 2006 alumni friends. The imfamous Jay and Mike, whom I have the pleasure of venturing back to Athens with this weekend for our friends’ wedding. (They’re lovely and single, ladies. However, they do come in a package deal. Just kidding. Sorta.) And the second photo is of my dear friend and former Facebook ‘it’s complicated’ boyfriend, Phill. Now if this photo doesn’t say, “I graduated from OU!” then I’m not sure any will.
There were two graduation ceremonies that Saturday. A few of my friends, including Joe, Phill, and Rebecca, graduated in the morning and were fortunate to have the better speaker for theirs. The rest of us all gathered in our River Park apartments getting ready for our parents’ arrivals. I was so numb that day. I remember Jay came in and said something to me about being ‘naturally pretty and not needing any makeup and I didn’t even blush. (PS. He tells lies because I definitely need it!) Shortly after the arrival of all of our parents, we took a few photos and then headed to the Convo Center. I remember walking through South Green with Ashley and Jenny Massie in our caps and gowns, the boys tagging along behind us. And I remember seeing a Black Blazer on my way there and thinking of him; wondering if that was in fact him on his way out of town- since he wasn’t graduating until the following year. Heart breaks even more. End scene.
I’m sure some people will say that their college graduation was one of the most memorable moments of their life, and I’m sure my graduation was memorable for my parents. However, I cannot say the same for me. All I remember about the ceremony is sitting next to Mike, near Kat and her boyfriend-at-the-time, Asher, and that Sleepy Sean sitting a few rows behind us (with Alex) determined to be the last graduate to receive their diploma. Unfortunately his plan failed, but A for effort. I kinda-sorta remember walking up on stage…no, I really don’t. I do vaguely remember that my cell phone just happened to vibrate almost immediately after I walked off stage, and it was Joe calling me (back). Joe Zummo. You know, that boy may not be as good of a friend to me as Brandon, but he’s always there for me in a different sort of way. Like so many of my other friends, I couldn’t imagine my life without him. He deserves an A.MAY.ZING. just for being, well, Joe. If you knew him then you’d understand why I say that.
I do have a special memory from that day that I hold near and dear to my heart, but unfortunately no photos. My wonderful father brought a bottle of champagne to celebrate this momentous occasion, and he found nothing wrong wtih crackin’ the bottle open in the parking lot. The Medica Family, all four of us since my brother graciously joined in the festivities, were drinking champagne in the parking lot of the football stadium. I actually think he may have even brought wine/champagne glasses, but I could be wrong and we were drinking from plastic cups instead. OU, Oh Yeah indeed!
After lunch with my parents, I headed up to Red Brick to meet with Phill, Rebecca, and our friend, Eric. They were just the group that I needed to see to begin the actual celebration that is college graduation. It’s when the bitter turned to bittersweet. After a few drinks, or maybe even one- we are lushes- we headed down to River Park to join the rest of the graduates in the pre-game festivities. But my dear love, Phill, just so happen to meet a friend that he couldn’t no bring home. The balloon just so happened to be in the trash…yes, the trash. And yes, there’s no way he was sober. To this very day, whenever I see this balloon in stores or in garbage cans, I think of Phill.
We had a great time that night, but to be honest I really don’t remember many of the details. Ashley’s brother, Scottie, fell in love with me…in a fun-joking-drunk way…and I believe we broke up a few times that night as well. He also called me “girlfriend” most of the night, so guessing he didn’t remember my name either. Typically gf-bf relationship.
The highlight of my night was seeing Crazy Drew (best friend to Libby’s boyfriend, Kyle) still in his cap and gown at 2:15 am outside of Goodfella’s chowing down on a slice of pizza. I was then serenaded by the (homeless?) guitar player outside of the Burrito Buggy as he played me Wild Horses. Athens, I miss you!
I stayed in Athens for a week or two after graduation, and some of my friends did the same. As each day went by, so did another goodbye. Although they weren’t easy, I never once cried.
Saying goodbye to Phill was far from easy, especially because I didn’t know when I’d see him next. He was moving to NYC almost immediately upon graduation, and while I’d always dreamed of living there I realized that my dream was just a dream. While we’d been friends since the beginning of my first year at OU, I really fell in love with Phill for the beautiful friend he is during senior year. He was the best boyfriend I’d ever had, and raises the bar extremely too high for any future contenders. I love you, Phill.
In my remaining days in Athens, I went on a lot of walks with friends and alone. That’s one of my all-time favorite things to do in Athens, and Brandon and I use to walk around that town whenever we had the chance. Brandon. He was the final goodbye I had to make before my dad drove me home on that fateful day. I’ll spare the details, but saying goodbye to him broke my streak of not crying as I teared-up at the thought of our goodbye time actually being upon us. As he said the other day to me on the phone, “we were inseparable” at OU. I love you, B, and I couldn’t have imagined OU nor my entire life without you. Afterall, I didn’t make a tee-shirt for anyone else.
My dad and me left shortly after, but before getting on the highway I asked him if he would drop me off over at my old stomping grounds, Dougan- my dorm, my first ‘home’ at OU. I sat on the infamous catwalk for awhile with thoughts and memories running through my head. Part of me was numb, and part of me was under the worst pain imaginable. I called Libby and talked to her for a few minutes, but hung up with the intention to place another call. But I didn’t. Instead I said goodbye to Dougan, and to OU.
As soon as we got on Rt. 33, I balled my eyes out. My poor dad didn’t know what to do, but he did the best thing he possibly could and just allow me to cry. It wasn’t all tears of sadness. I know that now. It was tears of memories; of anxiety; of lost hopes and dreams; of lost love; and mostly, tears of feeling lost and being afraid of the unknown.
That was four years ago, and here I am headed back to that same little college town this weekend. Four years. Wow. At that time, if you would have told me that I would be who I am today (more confident and comfortable in her skin) and where I’m at (living in Chicago), I would have called you craaaaaazzzzy.
I still miss Athens, and mostly I miss my friends and the times I spent with them in Athens. The memories will always be there. I know that. But there are so many days that I wish I could call up Brandon and go for a walk around town. And when Libby posts on Facebook that she’s having a bad day, I just want to be able to walk up to her house on Mound Street with sour Skittles. And then there’s Phill. While I hated how much time he spent at Alden Library, I secretly loved knowing that he’d be there so I could surprise him with Magic Cookie squares and tempt him to take a quick break.
So many memories, and so many good friends. I know that Athens will always feel like home, but as I just emailed Adriana, I also know that it will never be the same without all of my friends there. As an alumni once told me during Homecoming Weekend of my senior year, “Athens isn’t about the place, it’s about the people.”
I arrived in Athens with very few life experience and so much to learn. Each and every person I met, each experience I had, it’s all within me now and is responsible for the person that I am today. College was the best time of my life. Sure I had bumps and bruises, not to mention a broken heart, but I cannot even begin to put into words how special those three years were to me. My OU friends will always hold a special place in my heart. We met as acquaintances, soon became friends, and left as family. Love you all.
Or maybe I’ve been thinking about how to say goodbye to you all week. Maybe I’ve been thinking about how to make those words come out of my mouth every second of the day since I made the decision to leave. Maybe saying goodbye to you is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
You may return here once you have fully come to understand that you are always here. (Eat. Pray. Love. )