Nothing can really prepare you for the amazing, scary, awesome, and terrifying coaster ride that begins when you step onto a college campus as a Freshman, especially if you’ve chosen to attend a school out-of-state. When I chose a college, I remember knowing, in my heart, that living in Florida during my college years was an experience that would stretch me and help me discover who ‘Nicole’ really was. After all, I was a homeschooled girl from a very small town in New England. I had been stuck in a bubble of what people perceived me to be for so long that I didn’t even really know who I was sometimes.
I wanted to discover myself and to grow, and that was something that my parents fully supported. But at the same time, when my dad flew home and left me behind in the Sunshine State, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, what did I just get myself into?!?”
Loneliness is an understatement to describe how I felt those first few days, and I definitely made more than a few tearful phonecalls home. I remember thinking how strange it was that absolutely no one knew my name or who I was. I was like a number in a faceless crowd… My roommates and suitemates were seriously the nicest girls on the planet and immediately took me under their wing. But at the same time, I recognized it for what it was. While they were looking out for me, they had their own friends and activities that they wanted to get back to. I mean, let’s face it, Seniors didn’t want to spend their semester hanging out with a Freshman.
So although I did take them up on their offer to eat meals with them sometimes, more times than not, I chose to do the most terrifying option: which was invite myself to join tables filled with girls that I hadn’t met yet. That had been the point, after all. I wanted to stretch myself and make new friends.
(Let’s pause a moment, so that I can remind you that I hadn’t discovered who I was yet. I was SO different than the person that I am today, mainly because I was at the very beginning of an important growing experience. I was sooooooo shy; and it took a lot to bring out the bubbly, people-person side that is such a part of my life now).
Speech class was hardly the place that I expected to meet the first of my best college friends, because it was the class that terrified me the most. Gosh, Speech 101 freaked me out big time! Had you told me back then that I would one day be a worship leader and sing (in addition to speaking) in front of people, I would have laughed hard enough to crack a rib. I hated speaking in front of people! It terrified the living daylights out of me (and the night lights too)!!
Sorry, cheesy humor is kind of my thing. 🙂
But sometimes, the best things happen when we least expect it. After one class, as I was packing up my textbooks, a beautiful girl walked up to me and asked if I’d like to join her for lunch.
I was beyond thrilled to be asked to share lunch with someone who seemed so nice (and who also was a Freshman), and I’m fairly certain that the smile on my face nearly split me in two. (Seriously, sometimes I can relate to Sue Heck from The Middle just a little too much).
Lunch that day was the beginning of more than a friendship. Mandy – along with two other girls named Petra and Amy – became my sisters. We were the four musketeers, ever together and completely unbreakable. Ours was a relationship forged by laughter and fire. There were trips to Pensacola beach, Easter egg hunts, ice skating on campus, singing in the car, and lots of pizza nights. There were days of sickness, the stress of finals, and the September 11th attacks (which happened just 9 days after we arrived on campus, reminding us of just how far away from family we really were).
We were the only family we had during that time, and they gave me the courage to stay on campus when all I wanted to do was go home.
I only stayed in Florida for two years, as – by the time my Junior year arrived – I decided to change my degree focus to journalism. So I made the extremely difficult (and heartbreaking) decision to switch colleges (which eventually led me to meet Ashley and Wendy, both who are still my best friends today). But I grew so much during those first two years of college. Being so far from home made me stronger, more confident, and reminded me that there’s a huge world out there (and not just the people in a small town that I loved). I began the journey to find out who I really was.
I found a newfound confidence in who I was as an individual, and part of that was thanks to three girls who let me be me.
The last time I saw Amy and Mandy was on my wedding day, and honestly there was so much going on that I didn’t have the ‘sleepover’ girl time that I so craved. (And Petra was in Korea, I believe, teaching at the time). So it has been sooooo long since the four of us have had that. I’m talking years and years…
But at the same time, these are girls that – no matter how much time has gone by – we can jump on the phone and be right back on college campus, sitting underneath a palm tree and waiting for the cafeteria to open. The love we share is still strong and unwavering. Because we’re more than friends… We really are sisters who care for each other SO much.
And it’s all because Mandy asked me to eat lunch with her one day. 🙂
I wanted to take this walk down memory lane, because Mandy has written a guest blog post that’s going up on my blog tomorrow. And my intro for her post turned out to be this long post and not just an intro after all. 😉 This is SUCH a special woman, and I can’t wait for you all to read her story! So stay tuned for that!!