Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To University, and Beyond!

I remember having little difficulty deciding on which college to go to. I had narrowed my options to three schools - two private, Christian universities, and a state university. The state university was an option because I was already familiar with it, due to visiting a cousin who was a student there at the time. The other two, I had just heard of in passing from other friends of the family. I took the SATs, applied to the schools, and told myself that whichever one I got accepted into, would be the one God meant for me to attend. Imagine my frustration and inability to see the humor, when I got accepted into all three! I remember thinking "Really, God? You know how indecisive I am!" So, I set out visiting each of the schools.

The public university, while I was familiar with it, kind of scared me. It seemed big, confusing, hard to navigate, and most importantly, just too many people for this strong introvert. So that one was tossed out. On to the first of the private schools. It honestly creeped me out like nothing I had felt up to that point. The minute the car entered campus grounds, I felt this strong sense of foreboding. Something was telling me NO WAY, and was telling me very loudly. Later on in the year, I saw on the news that a fire had burned one of the dormitories, injuring and killing at least a couple of people.

The third school was quite a different experience. Just like I KNEW not to go to the first private school, the minute I set foot on the second one, I KNEW that that's where I would be going. It had a lot of rough times, for sure, but I still don't regret going to that particular school for undergrad.

I associated with several groups of friends throughout my five years of undergrad. The initial group of friends was definitely the largest. There were about 8 of us overall. It started two unrelated sets of friends - the Jennifers, who I met at an on-campus concert during our orientation weekend; and two friends that I met in workstudy in the library about a week later, whom, because of my shyness, I actually tried to avoid and they practically dragged me to the school cafeteria to eat with them. Both sets had a nursing student in them, who met each other, then the five of us kind of merged, later to be joined by a couple of other of their nursing student friends. By the end of sophomore year, almost all of these original friends that I had met in the early days of freshman year had transferred to other schools or graduated. After that I became friends with two girls, one who was a barely-in-remission bulimic/cutter, and one who was so strongly ADHD that when I did talk, I could barely actually finish the sentence. That was rocky, as the two of them were always fighting and pulling me in the middle of it, and the bulimic friend had a very possessive boyfriend(now husband) who would find ways to make sure she didn't hang out with me when he didn't want her to. We eventually drifted apart for the most part, although I have reconnected with one via facebook. I also semi-regularly hung out with friends I went to church with, including one guy who apparently took me on as his new mentor/big brother and always came to me for advice with his girl problems and his drug(marijuana specifically) problems, until he was expelled for being involved in some kind of robbery. Somehow, I can't remember exactly whether it was through Bulimic Friend or the girl I dated my first senior year, my group of friends shifted to a few American Sign Language students and some of their dorm-mates. Through one of them, I met another eventual good friend, who was her boyfriend at the time. Though she and I are no longer friends, he and I are.

I dated three girls during college, throughout the span of both of my senior years. The first only lasted about two weeks. I was pretty much a rebound boyfriend, and I knew it but didn't care. I was lonely. I hadn't "dated" anyone since sophomore year of high school by that point, and the only friends I saw regularly were kind of rocky in our friendships due to possessive-boyfriend drama and the drama of "our personalities really don't fit, but we don't have anyone else to hang out with". A few months later began my first actual serious relationship, with an ASL major who, incidentally enough, had been my date to spring formal two years prior. We dated for about six months. It was mildly rocky, but in all I actually did not have much bad to say about this relationship, and still don't, except for the awkward way the break-up itself was handled, which is understandable at this point, since I was her first serious relationship as well. We were just in two different places at that point. Contributed in part to the things I had learned as a Religious Studies minor, I had begun my process of becoming bitter towards Christianity and becoming increasingly questioning, whereas she had begun to more fully embrace it.

The third relationship, and the most recent, was by far the most dramatic. We met online. I was well into my bitterness and anger phase regarding religion, and she was a borderline-Goth Russian Jew living in Chicago. The complete opposite of anything that my parents would want me to date. And that, in retrospect, was part of her allure. By dating her, I would be asserting my independence over what my parents wanted and expected me to do. We began dating, taking turns every other month flying out to visit each other. I graduated that May. She didn't come because, as she said, she couldn't sit through something so long and boring as graduating, not even for her younger brother.

She was the one who gave me the initial push I needed to actually start figuring out for myself what I believed. For reasons already discussed in previous entries, I began my search on the metaphysical/"New Age" paths. Knowing what I knew about my family history, I decided to give my hand at Tarot. Now, due to time, I still haven't had much of a chance to become "adept" at it. But I still always seem to get a clear reading when it involves something potentially traumatic. In one of my early readings during this time, I pulled out both the Death and the Tower cards. Concerned, I consulted with some of the friends I had made on some of the Pagan forums I frequented, who assured me that those cards don't actually mean literal death, but primarily major life change, a transition from one phase to another. The Tower, more specifically, typically refers to major unexpected change. Throughout the conversations, I concluded that the reading was likely referring to my graduation, a month away. I didn't give it much thought. Then, a month after graduation, she told me, via AOL Instant Messenger, on my parents' computer, with my parents in the room with me,  that she was pregnant and having an abortion. This is still one of the most dramatic experiences of my life since finding out I was adopted. I felt helpless. I felt like a failure. I'm pro-choice, but what's a pro-choice man to do when he wants to keep the baby, and the mother chooses not to? It's a difficult dilemma to be in, the proverbial rock-and-a-hard place. And my parents still don't know about it. I found out with them in the same room as myself, and they were, and still are, completely clueless.

In March of 2007(St. Patrick's day, oh the irony), against my better judgment, I moved up to Chicago to be closer to her. By this point we had begun having more relationship difficulties, and in fact got into a fight the very night I moved up there. Although I had been smart enough to save up around $8,000 for the move between graduation and the actual move, I moved without a job or without even any serious prospects. We got along okay for awhile, but then started fighting more, and she pretty much seemed uninterested. Then, on Memorial Day that year, we broke up. I remained in Chicago for a few more months while I decided on my next move. I realized that I'm intrinsically drawn to the sea, so why not move to a coastal area? I began looking into coastal cities that had the Masters program I wanted to go into, and wound up here in SC. There were a lot of steps - the obvious GREs, applying to school, finding work, and moving down here. I lived in an extended stay hotel for a week, before moving in with a couple of roommates who turned out to be potheads. After them, I lived with a young gay couple who had a spare room for rent for just short of a year and a half, before moving where I am now, where I've lived just over a year.

Memorial Day 2007 was the second bad Memorial Day for me. The first was Memorial Day 2003. I remember that year, about a month prior, while coming home from university for the summer at the end of my sophomore year, having yet another sense of knowing something was going to happen. By this point I had become well-aware of recognizing what that feeling stood for, because throughout that school year, I had felt that same sense of foreboding prior to: an ice storm leading up to a death of a schoolmate, a freak accident resulting in the death of one of the music department's pianists, and a school shooting at a nearby middle school, all within a one month time frame. So I kind of spent the next month a little on edge, wondering what would happen. Then, that Memorial Day, my aunt's husband was killed in a freak accident while doing yardwork with his tractor, which toppled over and crushed him to death, being found later by my aunt. He was the first in a series of freak accidents that happened in our town that summer. I remember my family speculating that God was punishing our town because the new Civic Center had a mural of the triple-goddess Hecate, the primary goddess associated with witchcraft.

One of the clearest senses of deja vu I can remember, happened my freshman year.  I was surfing the web when I saw an ad on Yahoo advertising a new movie in theaters, The Mothman Prophecies. I had never heard of it, and thinking it was some new superhero thing(I was thinking more, Batman), I clicked on the website, and suddenly had the strongest senses of familiarity. Before even looking to see what the movie was about, I knew there would be something about a bridge collapsing in West Virginia, resulting in a large number of deaths. Sure enough, after some digging, there it was.

Another interesting incident occurred while I was dating the ASL major. We went to visit the previously mentioned Biltmore House, which my grandmother still refuses to go back to. This was my first time going, although for me it's more out of lack of time and money to return. I remember as soon as we entered the main building, the entire time we were in there I felt.... heavy. Like something was trying to glue my feet to the floor. I remember wondering why it suddenly took so much energy just to walk. I remember in one of the rooms I smelled really strong perfume, which apparently only I seemed to be aware of. And then, as soon as we exited the building, it was all gone. No scent, save the natural outdoor odors, and no heaviness in my feet. I remember thinking that was weird, because unlike typical descriptions of such experiences, I didn't(and still don't) recall hearing much concerning traumatic experiences happening in the mansion which would supposedly lead to things like poltergeists, spirits, ghosts, etc.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I worked at a summer church camp in Virginia. Though I tended to somehow end up being associated with all the more "troubled" campers, whether they just latched onto me or ended up with my assigned group, I loved it, and it is what led to my chosen career path and changing my major from Music and Religious Studies to Psychology. And to think I actually hated kids at the time. I just wanted a way to not spend the entire summer with my parents.

So there we have it. Over the course of many hours, many years, and three blog posts, we have most of the major events in my family history and my life that have made me who I am today. Do I believe I have psychic abilities? I admit I still struggle on that. While I do believe in some aspects of the "supernatural" or "paranormal", college and psychology also honed my scientific mindset, so there is still a lot I am skeptical of, admittedly. But I do believe that, to the extent that psychic abilities and paranormal phenomena are possible, I am at least somewhat clairvoyant and precognitive. Although I won't admit that to very many people. I get enough crazy looks already!

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