Heading Off To College


Promptly at 5:30 am, the loud, steady beat of rock music pulsated from my clock radio jolted me out of my sound slumber. Knowing that I needed to give myself enough time to pack all of my last-minute necessities, eat a filing breakfast and get on the road as early as possible, I still could not force myself to leave my warm, cozy bed.

Why was it that my best sleep occurred right before I was supposed to wake up? Not being a morning person, it was always difficult for me to “rise and shine.”

However, all the over-stimulation and excitement from Ashley’s Sweet 16 kept me up a lot later than I would have liked. Unfortunately, at that pre-dawn hour, not only was I drowsy but I was also nervous about how I was going to stay awake and alert during my drive to Josh’s campus.

As my anxiety level was rapidly escalating to the point of being on the verge of  transforming into a full-blown panic attack, I had to stop this thought process immediately.

Taking a few slow, deep breaths, I told myself, You are a big girl. Nothing bad is going to happen. You can easily handle this.

Unfortunately my psyche wasn’t buying any of this. The opposing stronger forces—self-doubt, worry and fear were ceremoniously claiming victory.

Taking a few more slow, deep breaths, I angrily fought back. For crying out loud, it’s only a car ride. No one is expecting you to perform complicated brain surgery. Get a grip, I admonished myself in no uncertain terms.

Amazingly that time I actually listened and realized how ridiculous my thought process had become. Where had I been my whole life???

After loading up my trunk, checking my directions several times and visiting the bathroom repeatedly, at 7:00 am, I finally pulled out of my driveway. Since it was Saturday morning,  traffic on the main thoroughfares was very light.

As I merged onto the tollway, I began to enjoy the ride and my solitude. Without having anyone in the car to converse with, my mind wandered off in a million directions.

At one point, I marveled at the irony of how my road trip was in many ways a metaphor for the path my life was traveling on.

It wasn’t that long ago when the thought of driving this distance alone scared me to death. I worried over worst case scenario events and drove myself crazy expecting at any given moment that my car would break down, I’d get lost in a seedy part of town where I would be raped, robbed and/or murdered, or I’d be killed in a horrific accident. And wouldn’t you love to take up residence in my brain too?

I knew I got this way from living with Dick. With all the fear he instilled in me over the years, I began to doubt everything I thought, believed or did. I was completely controlled and wasn’t able to make a move without his approval. Emotionally paralyzed, not only was I at his mercy for everything, but I felt I wasn’t capable of performing the simplest tasks on my own. Prior to my brief sojourn, I fretted over how I was going to pay for this trip (just like I’ve been continuously worrying about how I will manage financially when this divorce will finally be over).

Even though Dick didn’t give me the finances for the getaway, somehow I was able to scrape together enough cash.

For the first time in over 26 years, I was taking charge of my life. It felt amazing. I marveled at the fact that not only was I okay, but this mini-escape was going to be fun, exciting and exhilarating.

It was evident right then and there that an immediate attitude shift was in order. Proud of myself for how far I’ve come in such a short period of time, I decided to change my mindset from fearing the future to viewing my current circumstances as a stepping stone toward a myriad of wonderful possibilities that would lie ahead. Immediately I felt jubilant over all the unknown opportunities waiting to be revealed and discovered. Somewhere deep inside me a soft voice whispered, “Kiddo, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

As I was savoring my ah-ha moment, something else hit me out of the blue. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I had to pee very badly. For some reason, every time I’ve ever taken a road trip, I  became Niagara Falls. No matter how many times I stopped in the bathroom before I left my house, it never failed; not long after I started driving, my bladder became busy. I’ve always been amazed by this. I could be running errands non-stop in my vicinity and never have to make a pit stop all day. Yet, put me on a highway and in less than an hour, all I can focus on is how far the next clean, safe restroom is and will I be able to easily exit and re-enter the road.

I bring this up for two reasons: (1) I wonder if this happens to anyone else besides me and (2) This significantly increases my travel time.

My goal was to be at Josh’s frat at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana no later than noon. I knew if I reached Lafayette, Indiana (home of Purdue University) by 10:00 am, I’d make it without a problem. Even with my multiple side trips, I must have had good tailwinds because I reached my first destination right on schedule.

After filling up my tank, I phoned Josh to make sure he was awake and to tell him that I would be there in time to take him out to lunch. He sounded a little out of it and his tone indicated he was not at all enthusiastic about my upcoming arrival.

After hanging up the phone, my mood instantly took a nose dive. I began to wonder if this trip was a good idea after all.

From that moment on, until I reached the campus, I contemplated what the next 48 hours would have in store.


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