I had always been an unashamed homebody. When I was ten my aunt and uncle invited me to stay at their house for the weekend. I was thrilled to be singled out for this honor. My mother was pleased that her quiet child was receiving such special attention. I left grinning from ear to ear, caught up in the moment-barely acknowledging my mother’s heart felt waves. I was back within twenty-four hours, face blotchy and eyes puffy. I ran to mom, hanging on for dear life. When my cousin taunted me and asked how on earth I could have become homesick in less than a day, I answered angrily, “I am NOT homesick. I am mommy sick!” This has endured as a malady with no remedy.
Little changed over the ensuing years. I joined clubs, made friends, went to high school and learned all the things that come with those experiences. I would leave in the morning on some new adventure and return at night to my mother-my anchor,regaling her with all that had happened that day.
Graduation and the next chapter in my life loomed. Would I go to college? Of course! Where? Who knew?
It was winter in the Midwest-cold and daunting. Spring would arrive on time, though, with all its promise. Summer would be the usual. Hot-sticky-humid. Normal. But the question, “Where would I be when the fall came?” whispered constantly in the background.
Applications were duly filled out. Essays written. Forms signed. I didn’t know where I would go; only that it would be somewhere sensible. I was not the type of girl that would rock the boat. And yet. I heard of a school way out west. The University of Colorado at Boulder. The pictures were breathtaking. The pamphlet was peopled with smiling young men and women. I brought the catalogue to the house. Mom and I had a conversation. “Would I be okay so far from home?” “No.” “Was there any way that I might be one of the smiling, happy kids?” “Of course not.” “Was it reasonable to travel half way across the country, incur out of state tuition, just to be miserable?” “Heck no.” My mother relaxed as she took the offending catalogue off the table. Which school would be the top pick, then?
I perused the brochures in front of me. I was a good student and had quite a few choices. Life doesn’t come with guarantees. However, there was little doubt I would thrive at any of these colleges. I reached into the wastebasket. My mind was made up. I would only apply to one school. CU.
Mom was beyond flabbergasted. We had talked for hours about how ill prepared I was for a life thousands of miles away. We had decided that the world could wait until after I had attained my degree. Why would her daughter want to go to the one place that offered the slimmest chance of a positive experience?
My mother deserved an explanation. Unfortunately she never got one. To this day I can recall my feelings, but back then I had a hard time translating them into words. I was seventeen and the very real possibility loomed that I would not be all right so far from home. If I accepted this limitation, what else would hobble my future as new forks in the road presented themselves? I was not then nor am I now a person with a high tolerance for risk. But I was always afraid of what a life controlled by fears would look like.
Anyway, the mountains looked beautiful.
I dug in my heels. It was time to spread my untested wings. Confident and terrified I careened toward my future.