Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

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If you’re reading this, I hope it resonates with you. And if you’re not, I truly wish you were.

There is some truth to the idea that our parents get us pets, loving and furry animals, to learn compassion and responsibility. But I will tell you the other side to that is to learn the ability to cope with loss, understand the ramifications of death and come to terms with the realities of life. Maybe in the moment they aren’t thinking about it, with your childhood joy and all, and lord knows you aren’t, a six-year-old with a goldfish. But one day, it’ll be a lesson learned, a "life" experience, if you will.

We spend countless days, months, and if you’re lucky, years caring for an extension to the family. Feed, water, play, clean up, repeat. They stand by our sides during times of tragedy, and support us with unconditional love in silence. Their existence is enough for us. They sense trouble before us, guard the doors, protect the home that may be heartfelt or reality. Lay with us while we cry and deny the affections of our parents and friends. They are the teddy bear we’ve always needed.

Then one day, you lose them. And the worst part, they can’t even say goodbye. Can’t lay with you while you cry over the loss of them. It’s a devastation that’s both dramatic and necessary, and as a child, you learn this lesson. The goldfish goes belly up, and you learn about it while you flush him down the toilet in some dramatic titanic-esc scene. Off to the store to buy a-new. You bury the family dog or cat in the backyard and cringe at the spot where grass has yet to regrow. One day, you’ll find a stray and they will fill the hole where your childhood pet lay. Not to replace, but because to some extent, they feel necessary to our existence. We find ourselves empty in places we didn’t know could be emptied, we feel unsafe without a snore at the foot of the bed.

So you learn to cope, and clean up the scraps no one is there to lap up. You learn to live with the loss, learn to live without them. Lesson learned.

But like math, there’s more than just 2+2. There’s multiplication, algebra, trigonometry… And the lessons get more complicated as we grow.

The people we grow up loving, the ones we learn to love. The ones we have only ever loved. Those that taught us the lessons of loss, the introduction to addition: 1+1 level, somehow are subtracted from our lives. And sometimes, like our furry companions, they don’t get to say goodbye.

We are quick to answer 2 A.M. calls, expectant of death. No one calls the house at this hour... We bounce in from work or class to tears on kitchen tables. Sometimes we just know.

You drive for hours, going nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Revisiting roads you’ve driven down. Sitting on curbs you’ve shared. Staring at photos you’ve taken. You look to the passenger seat; every trip, test drive… flashbacks are a bitch.

The sick part is, you’ve been through this before. And you’ll continue to go through it.

We watch our grandparents age and dwindle, forgetting our names and struggle to stand for a greeting. Say things like, “this could be the last time…” and “you never know when…”. And yet when it happens, it’s still a surprise. Could have been tomorrow I suppose, or last week. But we ache for the memories of a childhood unforgotten; if they're gone, so is everything I've ever experienced with them, right? Cookies don’t taste the same, we smell cigars in the dead of empty night.

We realize that age has nothing to do with it. Sickness knows no bounds, temptation knows all weakness’ and accidents are just so. We look for answers in unwritten letters, sent text messages and full freezers. The “what ifs” will destroy you. The blame game never has a winner. Whose pain is worse, yours or mine?

You wait for the "April Fools!", or the alarm clock wake up. It never comes, and you’re forced to realize that it’s a reality. Swollen eyes, choking coughs followed by discarded cigarette butts and quietly blasted songs of desperation and devastation. Long walks on beaches drinking alcohol stolen from our parents, freshly baked bread with flour dusted everywhere, barbeques with too loud of laughs. I’ll say it again. Childhood memories in backyards. Easter Sunday breakfasts. Christmas Eve dinners.

You sleep terribly, sip coffee that goes cold. You attend wake after funeral, and funeral after funeral. The rooms all feel the same, too warm for the winter brewing inside us. There is always the moment someone grabs your hand while you sit silently, the embrace after a service. The turn-around at casket, when you have just enough time to see everyone else staring back at your pain, mirrors. There is the moment you realize how much this is going to hurt. The moment you realize you’re about to feel it, and the moment you do.

No number of run-away turtles, and ill-fated hamsters could have prepared you for these moments. They gave us ideas, they educated us. They planted the seed and watered it slowly, until the day it grew too big and had to be cut. As anyone that walks within your life will do.

Feed, water, repeat.

Within the moments of heavy breathing and gasping sessions of hysterics, you’ll find solidarity in the memories. The reminders of their laugh, their favorite song played at the right time, their found forgotten sweatshirt. In the hollow of wanting to tell them about your day, you will remember an argument that now makes you smile.

Tattoo yourselves with dates you won’t forget, then ask "Is that today?"

Smile at dropped feathers, hear meows that aren’t there, whisper “happy birthday” every year.

You will drive with purpose, and reminisce with yourself as you drive past those curbs, you will frame the photos.

Cover Image Credit: Pajomend

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.
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Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

SEE ALSO: 15 Things You Say To Your Roommates Before Going Out

The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.


Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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To The High School Senior Wishing She Could Fast-Forward To Graduation, Careful What You Wish For

Don't wish this time away.

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As the last stretch of my freshman year of college stands before me, I've been thinking a lot about where I was a year ago today. I've thought about how fast the time has gone, but also how much has happened in that year.

A year ago, I decided what college I was going to and was getting ready to graduate, and honestly counting down the days until graduation. Senior year was almost over, and I couldn't wait to walk across that stage, get my diploma, and FINALLY get to start my real life. However, now that it's a year later I honestly barely remember all those little moments and it feels like literally a world ago when I was in my high school and making my Senior Board full of pictures of my childhood. And part of me wishes that I hadn't wished all that time away.

So, to my high school seniors out there — I encourage you to cherish all the memories you are making. I encourage you to spend time with your parents and savor the meals you have with them and enjoy the conversations where your mom asks all the mom questions about your day, and your dad tells a story from his childhood that you've heard a million times before. I encourage you to appreciate the friends you have, and whether or not you plan to stay friends with them after graduation, be grateful for the time with them in this season and the role that they played in your life.

I ask you to look around your high school, stop and stare at the walls that you've probably been praying to get out of for a few months now and appreciate the memories and times you've had in those buildings. Whether or not high school was a great time for you or a bad time, it was a time of growth and the place where you matured and made mistakes and succeeded.

Seniors, enjoy these last few months because before you know it you'll blink and it will be a year later and you'll be miss those days that you complained about, those teachers you rolled your eyes at, and those friends that you shared that time with.

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