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Ayres HallFor some reason, May is a month of change for me.  Graduations are everywhere, professors and parents are sending off their young ones, preparing them for a world of work, education, and challenge.  They may not always make it known, but parents always have a spot in their hearts yearning for their children to come back home someday.

Parents don’t always know it, but sometimes the lessons and values they teach their children stick with them.  The warm feelings of hot chocolate on the couch during a cold wintery day and homemade potato soup for a sore throat stay with us for a long, long time to come.

Those warm feelings, memories, smells beckon me back time and time again to the country town where everyone knows each other on a first-name basis, if you run out of gas someone you know isn’t too far away, and there’s only a scarce few red lights you can run at night when no one is watching.  The smell of Red Door on a big sweater never fades; the smell of Old Spice mixed with old man never ages on a white button-down shirt, nor does the sound of Dad’s radio in the garage grow silent.  Things like that never go away.

It’s been three years since I graduated from high school and moved to Knoxville for furthering my education at the University of Tennessee.  Most of those three years I beat myself up for coming here over a guy I ended up breaking up with halfway through my sophomore year.  Sometimes I still regret my decision, at least, until Sunday night.

All students here at UT have thought about, at least once, about going on the roof of the esteemed Ayres Hall on the Hill.  It’s easily the highest point on campus, and it looks over all of downtown, campus, the Fort Sanders area, and beyond; it truly is a sight to take in for yourself.

My friends, Rob, and I (after roasting marshmallows at the Torchbearer, another UT landmark) roamed over to the Hill and parked.  We walked up the road, and since Ayres is under renovations and fenced off, we had to find a way through the fence.  We did, and after finding a way into the building, walked in.  We walked through the main area, up the flights of stairs until they ended on the third floor, then found an alternate, metal staircase that took us up to the fourth floor and ultimately the bell tower.

I have a fear of heights—and immense, horrifying fear of heights.  At this point, it was obvious that no one should have been allowed into that portion of the building, and I was getting nervous.  We were SO close to the top, but I couldn’t manage to muster the courage to climb the last few sets of steep stairs to the “dark room,” then the roof.

I just knew I wasn’t going to make it, and I would have stayed at the bottom until everyone made it to the top, then came back down.

One of the girls in the group came back down the stairs and gave me a pep talk.  “I’m not going to leave you down here alone,” she said, “but I’m not NOT going up there, either.”  Basically, I had no choice but to finish my climb and make my efforts worth something.

It was dark.  I was scared.  With what little light there was, I could see straight through the stairs and all the way to the bottom.  It was a long, long way down (for me, at least).

To her (and my) surprise, I decided I was going to finish my journey to the top.

I followed the people in front of me, and when I felt the rush of fresh, cool air hit my face I knew I had made it.

I climbed out of the hole and onto the flat roof.  The first thing I saw was Neyland Stadium below, then the sparkling river reflecting the light from the moon and stars, then Downtown Knoxville, and then the faces of the people I had made it with.
A smile crept across my face the way we crept around the Hill from the community service officer below.  And then excitement hit me.

If it hadn’t been for the fear of getting caught, I would have yelled from the roof top, “I’m the king of the world!”  It felt like I’d just climbed Mount Everest, and every time I pass by Ayres I smile and think of that night, the mischievousness,  the fear, the accomplishment, the view.  I was on top of the world, and after that I knew I had come to UT for a reason, if only for staring my fear straight in the face and conquering it.  Of course, I met the love of my life here, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything, but I feel like somewhere down the road we would have met anyway.

Since that night, I’ve been thinking a lot about the person I was when I graduated from high school.  I’m not the same person.  She would have never done anything like that; she was too timid and never did anything wrong.  The person I am today knows that life isn’t worth living if you can’t take risks, but knowing which risks to take is half the battle.  Some rules are meant to be broken.

But, sometimes in life, you need to go back home to get in touch with your roots, know where you came from and never forget it.  Remember the morals and beliefs you were raised with, because they are your foundation.  My brother once described my mother in one word: port.  She sends us off into the world, however, she’s always the place we go back to for stability.  For me, she’s the lighthouse.  She warns me of dangers nearby, but gives me a light to follow to come back home.  She’s my stability, my rock, my foundation.

Mom, I love you.  Always.

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Yesterday morning I had to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life…

I drove for 3 hours 200 miles in the opposite direction my heart wanted to go in.  It was the single most painful thing I’ve ever done…but I’m sure it won’t be the last.

If anyone has ever been in a long-distance relationship, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.  It was all I could do to keep the car heading where I knew I had to go…all I wanted to do was turn the car around, drive back to his house and jump back into his strong, secure arms.

But, this is all part of growing up, and I have to be a big girl now and deal with it.

Right now, I’m dealing with it by listening to his Goo Goo Dolls Greatest Hits CD and crying like a freakin’ baby typing this thing up.

Hold on, before it’s too late, we’ll run til we leave this behind…
Stand on the edge with me, hold back your fear and see nothing is real til it’s gone.

Chatting on Facebook one night I expressed to him worries that I shouldn’t even be worrying about, sticking true to my nature of course.  He told me something that night that I’ve been clinging onto for comfort and to serve as a reminder to me…

Come back down to earth with me.
It’s all going to be all right.

God knows I needed to hear that.  He hates when I can’t stand to be away from him…but it just takes me a few days to adjust.  At least this time it’s easier; I’m getting used to the fact that Knoxville isn’t his home right now.

I guess now would be a good time to tell our story, from my perspective at least…I wish I could tell it from his point of view—he’s a much better story-teller than I am.

It all started last November when I ended my 2 year relationship with a previous boyfriend.  Rob and I were in the same French class, and we had chatted a few times after class and on Facebook, so we were decently good friends before we dated.

One night I invited him over to work on homework and bake cookies… according to him, we “found each other the sweeter sight.”  He’s right.

Our first kiss happened that night, too.  We were sitting on the couch, and having finished our hot chocolate and pumpkin cookies long ago, continued our conversation that started as soon as he walked in and my guard was down.  I was hugging a pillow close to me, and he noticed that I was doing so.  He was quite the smooth operator, leaned over to me and said he usually cuddles with people.  I, being the innocent naive one, allowed him to take the pillow from me and put his arm around me.  We started holding hands as our heads continuously got closer, and then we looked up at each other.

He kissed me, and my feet haven’t touched the floor since.

Oh, that man… I’m telling you it scares me…it scares me to death.  I can’t think of anyone else that I’ve been so attached to, where the moment we part for a long time I feel like a part of me is missing, where as soon as I see his face my heart skips a beat…

I’d give up forever to touch you, because I know that you feel me somehow.
You’re the closest to Heaven that I’ll ever be, and I don’t want to go home right now.
I just don’t want to miss you tonight…

It hurts.  I’m not going to lie…but I think it’ll make me a stronger person.  I never knew what it felt like for my roommate to do the same thing I had to do, but for an entire year.  At least he’ll be back in August.  If I can last that long, then I think I’ll be OK.

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First year of college at UT closed out Friday when I walked out of McClung Museum and finished my last exam. I don’t care how I did on it. All that matters is it’s over, done, behind me. Now I can focus on more important things: work, internship opportunities, editorial production and paying rent.

It seems my life is actually maturing. This time last year I was sitting in Ms. Pointer’s classroom waiting for a noisy bunch of people to settle down so the class could actually get started. While sitting there, making small talk with people around me, my mind was somewhere else (Yes, sometimes I was that weird kid in the corner day-dreaming all the time, and no I was not strung out on acid).

I would be thinking about how to get out of there. How to “un-surround” myself from people who didn’t care about where they would end up, or knew they would stay in Wartburg the rest of their lives and so didn’t put forth the effort to better themselves. I would be thinking back to my summer at Governor’s School, how fun it was to be around people that actually cared about their futures, careers and education. We were all there for that same reason. We cared.

I would be thinking about where I would ultimately end up, possibly raising a family. Envisioning myself in Wartburg was not exactly easy, so I would move to New York City, Nashville or even downtown Knoxville. Any place with an urban feel to it would’ve been great.

I would be thinking about where I would be a year from now. Then I thought I would be back home, relaxing for the summer with Lance.

Now I’m up at 10:34 a.m. writing this blog in Brandon and Steph’s apartment after saying goodbyes to Bradley (who surprised us with a visit from Connecticut), Mom and Dad, and Lance. When I said my goodbyes to Bradley, it occurred that I may not see him again until Thanksgiving or Christmas and rather made me sad. When I said bye to Lance, it hit me in the face, hard, that I wouldn’t be relaxing at home this summer with him.

My break from what I knew as the norm had begun. I am an adult now, and my life turned upside down.

But don’t get me wrong. Great opportunities are coming out of this, I’m sure. I’m getting experience that I wouldn’t have gotten in Wartburg. I’m exposing myself to potential employers that told me if I don’t get it for the summer, then maybe in the fall when school starts back up. Normally, I wouldn’t be told that. Normally, for the summer, I would be told to vacuum the pool, do the dishes, get tan for once and I would be telling myself to work off that ice cream you just ate.

My life has turned upside down, but in a good way like a pineapple upside down cake (which I love by the way). I’m starting a new chapter once more, and hopefully it’ll be the one with the career opportunity of a lifetime. Or at least a step in that direction.

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