Monday, March 28, 2011

Society has rules and the first rule is: You go to college. You wanna have a happy and successful life, you go to college.

Emily is giving me a lot of grief for giving BYU fans a lot of grief over their sad loss in the NCAA basketball tournament. She keeps telling me I don't like the Lord's school and calls me a hater, etc... I really can't defend myself because it's true. I didn't have a great experience at BYU. Sometimes I tend to blame the school itself even though it was really my own fault.

I'm writing this post to help her understand why I didn't love it there.

I had a difficult time deciding where to attend college. I applied to and was accepted at four universities. They were all at least two hours from home. I was so nervous about leaving my dad and my sister all alone. I really wanted to give BYU a try because my mom told me that she really wanted me to go there. My stake president told me not to worry, that the ward would step up and take care of my family. (And they did in such an incredible way, but that's another post.) So, I prayed about going to BYU and I really did feel like it was where I was supposed to go. My dad was very disappointed in my decision and I don't really know exactly why. But he did not lend me any support after I made my decision. I'm not talking financially. I mean he distanced himself from me in a way that was extremely painful. I had a great friend take me to BYU after I was accepted and tour it. I remember my dad was so upset that I was going just for a visit. He wouldn't look at the pictures I took after I got home. I have felt like since that decision, I have never done anything to make him proud of me. (Again, probably an entire additional post.)

So while most kids had parents who were taking the reigns and helping their kids with financial aid and housing and choosing classes, I had no one but me. I didn't fill out the financial aid stuff right. I didn't choose wisely on my housing decision. All of you BYU grads are going to think this was my biggest mistake: I lived off campus my freshman year. I can hear you all going, "Yep, that's it." I choose extremely difficult classes for my first semester. Stuff like Honors Advanced Chemistry and Honors Advanced Calculus. I was a smart girl but didn't know that the first semester is for figuring things in life out and spreading your wings a little and having fun.

I left my house in Toledo for BYU on August 2, 1993, with my little Chevette crammed full and a dear friend by my side. A sister in the ward volunteered to caravan with me to Utah. Again, I had terrible disappointment that my dad wouldn't go with me. I know he had MS and that it was hard for him to travel but deep-down I think he really could have done it if he had wanted to. I saw him do incredible things when he wanted to. I cried myself from my house to the Indiana-Illinois border. Looking back, I just can't believe I left them-my poor dad and sister. It feels like a horrible, cruel thing I did.

I lost the sister from the ward that I was following outside of Chicago. Stacy and I were on our own-an 18 year old and a 17 year old-in the middle of the country. We drove ourselves from Chicago to Lincoln, Nebraska. In a car that would repeatedly overheat. And without cellphones or GPS or anything like that. If that was Emily, I would be beside myself. I would have police helicopters finding her. National Guard would be called in.

Anyways, I got to BYU on August 4. I found a job at the MTC in the cafeteria. I hated it so much and quit and found another job at Krystal Kreations in the University Mall. That was better. I lived at Roman Garden's Apartments. I moved my stuff in, knowing no one. We had three bedrooms. Two of them had girls in them that were friends with each other. They met living on campus their freshman year. (I know, I know...) The other room had one girl who was not a student. She was 22. She taught me some very interesting ways to disobey the law of chastity while still being "technically" a virgin. It was awful. I will never forget my first night there, on the top bunk, crying myself to sleep. But I thought things would soon get better because I had orientation things coming up and then I would meet people.

I went to the orientation things but all the kids had friends from their on-campus buildings. I was extra. I didn't feel any guidance. No one was there to help me figure out stuff. I had to do it on my own and I was not well equipped for it. When I talked to my dad, I would try to be excited about the things I was experiencing. Here's how conversations would go: "I was studying in the Lee Library and it's huge, Dad. It's really incredible." Him: "The library at MSU is the largest and greatest library on any campus on the planet." I know now that I was depressed and trying anything to make myself feel better. This included spending way too much time dancing at The Palace and The Bay in the modern room and too little time studying. And spending way too much money on things to cheer me up and not being wise in the use of my resources.

I was floundering.

I had one friend and I told him how unhappy I was and what should I do? He suggested we fast together and maybe that would help. Such a good friend. So we did. We fasted and I remember sitting on the grass with him outside the library after fasting and we shared a turkey sandwich and I felt better. I hadn't decided what to do, but I felt better. This friend had an aunt who lived really close to me and I walked to her house one day just to talk. I needed someone to talk to who could help me. She was kind and wise. It was so nice to be in a home. I hated my apartment. I hated the stupid guys all around like sharks sizing girls up. I hated not feeling like I belonged anywhere. I hated being lonely. I failed at being away from home.

I decided to go home. I re-applied and was accepted to MSU. I secured an apartment at the LDS Living Center there. I felt happy. I felt like this was going to be a good thing for me.

I left BYU on December 16, 1993. Good riddance, I said. I left Utah having made one friend. The best memories I have of being there are of food I ate. I haven't been back since I left almost 20 years ago.

I moved into the Living Center right after January 1, 1994. I made friends right away. I met my future husband on the first Sunday I attended the university ward there. The rest is history.

I vowed to help Anna when she applied to school and be supportive no matter where she chose to go to school. I helped her fill out her forms and made sure she had everything right. She chose MSU too. But I didn't pressure her in any way. She was just a really smart girl.

I don't really hate BYU. What I hate are the bad, sad memories that my experience left me with. Those four months were pretty awful for me so in my mind BYU is synonymous with a bad, disappointing experience. What I hate is that so many LDS people feel like it is the only valid option for LDS youth. And it's not. Just thinking quickly, I can name 16 couples that I know who met each other at the ELSLC and were married in the temple and are still married today. It's a wonderful place. I want my kids to know that they can go anywhere...MSU, OSU, Schoolcraft, even BYU (But not U of M. I couldn't stomach that one.) and they can be happy and successful. I will do my best to help them. And if they get 1600 miles away from home and have given it a good shot and hate it, I will go get them and help them find another place that fits them better. That's probably not a love and logic mom, is it? But its what I would do.

The only recourse I have to use against BYU is to root against their sports teams. It's just a little thing and probably a little petty but it works for me. This post has been extremely therapeutic for me. I feel much better.


Anna said...

Is anyone ever ready for college? That's what I'd like to know.

Plymouth said...

Seemed like everyone was ready but me

Plymouth said...

How am I posting a's Plymouth??

Angie said...

As a BYU grad and fan, I love this. I think everyone has to do what is right for them. For a lot of LDS youth, it's finding a place other than BYU. The church even came out several years ago and encouraged college students to attend school closer to home and get involved in institute there. Not everyone can go to BYU for whatever reason, and not everyone should even if they can. I found my transition to BYU easy after attending Ricks College for 2 years - not sure if I had arrived as a freshman I would have loved it either (I lived off campus as well, with my grandma). Emily (and all your kids) is lucky to have parents who will support her in whatever she decides to do...I'm sorry that you didn't get that same kind of support.

Stacie said...

I think it is amazing that you lasted as long as you did with everything stacked against you. I am glad you were able to have such a good experience at MSU. I agree with Angie's comment. We are BYU fans through and through, but we know that not everyone can go there. What great lessons you have learned to be able to help your kids in the future!

Bethany said...

Wow. I liked reading your story Jennifer. It gives me insight to your reasoning and your history. I think it would be good for Emily to read. Going to any college is a big step--a huge step of independence. But, everyone needs help and guidance in the process. I'm sorry yours was so hard. I can see why you would have a chip on your shoulder towards BYU. If I had been in your shoes, I probably would too!

Related Posts with Thumbnails