Changing Forever

By: Lisa de Jong

YOU KNOW HOW IT’S SO EASY to remember every detail of your favorite movie? You remember every word said, every little thing that happened, and in what order. That’s how that day is for me, but it’s not a movie. It’s a real life nightmare … one I continue to wake up in every single day of my life. Every detail haunts me to this day, and at this point, I think they always will.

I remember everything about that dreary, cool autumn morning. The light rain that fell from the gray sky, keeping the newly fallen leaves from blowing in the wind. I remember the red shirt I wore, the large hole in the knee of my favorite blue jeans, the smell of maple brown sugar oatmeal that permeated the small kitchen.

I remember watching the little white car back out of the driveway, but I didn’t realize then that it would be the last time. I’d seen that smiling face every day for years, rewarding all of the good things I’d done. The smooth voice inside soothed me to sleep when nothing else could. The warm hands that held mine as we crossed busy streets in our small town.

When I was young, I didn’t think so much about the things I should have said, the things I should have done. That came much later when I had time to look at things in retrospect and had the knowledge to process it all. They say wisdom comes with age, but it’s not because of the things you learn with time, but the events you live through.

I wish I would have known what was coming because there’s so much I would have done differently.

But it’s too late now.

That smile I can only see in pictures.

That voice I can only hear in my head.

Since that day, I’ve hated red, and I can’t stand the smell of maple. With one event, my entire life is lived differently.

But the worst part is the words last spoken between us weren’t necessarily the ones I wanted to remember for the rest of my life.

I can’t change it now, but learning to let go isn’t easy.

If I can move on from the past, I can have everything I’ve ever wanted. I’ll be happy for a change … or at least that’s what I think …

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP SO EARLY?” It sounds like I failed at my mission not to wake up my new roommate, Kate. She turns in her small twin bed and runs her finger below her tired eyes.

“It’s Saturday,” she adds, covering her face with her forearm.

I smile as I pull on my old tennis shoes. “I’m going to check out the rest of campus. You’re welcome to come.”

“It’s too freaking early for that. I plan on staying in bed until my date with Beau later. You should go back to bed, too.”

“Not happening. There’s too much I want to see,” I say, sliding my purse strap over my shoulder. “Go back to sleep. I’ll be back later.”

Kate lifts her arm, staring me down with her dark green eyes. “Grab some coffee while you’re out. You’re going to need it.” With that, she rolls around and quickly drifts back to sleep, leaving me to my own devices.

I’ve been a small town girl since the day I was born. It never really bothered me much when I was younger, because back then, all I needed were a couple friends to play dolls with, and I was content.

Life was simple. Dreams were simple.

But as I got older, things changed, and I wanted more.

And now, I’m here, living day one of my new life. A life I’ve spent the last few years planning and working toward. There’s no script or master plan. I just want to come out of it with my degree so I never have to go back to that small town again. It’s all part of a bigger dream.

As I step outside, the hot summer sun beams down on me, forcing me to pull my sunglasses from my shirt collar. When I arrived on campus yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to see everything because it was too dark, so now’s my chance. I’m quickly realizing this place is almost as big as the town I grew up in. It certainly has more things to do and see. If I knew it wouldn’t earn me an unwelcome audience, I’d probably be skipping through the grass because I’ve dreamed about this for so long. It’s a moment I’d thought about for hours at night while lying in my bed … it means everything to me.

When my dad told me he couldn’t afford to send me to college, I thought my world ended. I’m not one to let anything get me down, though, and the next day I woke up with a better outlook. I spent hours each night studying, getting perfect grades on everything just so I could get a full scholarship.

It worked. I’m here now, and even though no one can see it, I’m jumping up and down inside. This is my kind of adrenaline rush … my ride around the track at one hundred and fifty miles an hour. I’m trying to slow it down, to take it all in.