$87,041.55 — That’s how much I’ve paid the University of Kansas.
That doesn’t count what I’ve spent on the dozens of parking tickets I’ve racked up, the hundreds of Brella’s turkey sandwiches I’ve hastily snarfed down or the thousands of delicious Cinnamon Phog lattes that have put a stranglehold on my overcaffeinated soul.
But right now, I’m not worrying about the student loan debt I’ve accrued. That’s for 25-year-old Amie to bitch about. Right now, I’m focusing on the few days I have left here as a student at KU and how I got here.
I started telling people that I wanted to go to Kansas when I was in eighth grade. Looking back on it, that sounds ridiculous — I only liked the Jayhawks because of a boy. Funny how things turn out.
As I entered high school, my allegiance to a campus I’d never stepped foot on didn’t waiver. Of course, my friends and family thought those were lofty ambitions for a kid from Nebraska whose only memory of Kansas was that she left her “Cowie” — a well-loved stuffed animal — at a hotel in McPherson.
College wasn’t anything I expected it to be.
After I graduated from high school four years ago, people were quick to tell me about what would happen to me in college.
I was supposed to meet my future husband. I was supposed to change my major at least twice. I was supposed to absorb everything I possibly could, but also learn more about myself.
Husband? That didn’t happen. Changed major? Nope. Journalism from day 1 to day 1,358.
For $87,041.55, I learned a lot. I learned how to write ledes that capture moments, to avoid passive voice and all about the first amendment. I know much more about feminist theory and I’m better at constructing pointed arguments.
But the biggest thing I learned wasn’t from a classroom. Above everything else, college taught me how resilient people can be. We’re all more resilient than we think. Though I hope that very few people have to test that theory.
My road to graduation was filled with potholes, speed bumps and, sometimes, going offroad.
A battle with mono derailed my GPA freshman year, so much so that I lost a really large scholarship for my sophomore and junior years. My sophomore year gave me an introduction to date rape drugs, campus sexual assault and the Title IX office. My Title IX investigation went into the summer before my senior year and overlapped with my mom’s breast cancer diagnosis. My senior year has been riddled with memory loss and PTSD episodes that involve dissociation and panic attacks. To top it all off, the severity of my airborne peanut allergy got progressively worse as the years passed.
I couldn’t have predicted any of the above, or any of the other traumatic things I didn’t list. Whether I like it or not, that’s part of my college experience. There’s nothing I can do now; I can’t go back and change it. The scars — both physical and emotional — will always be there, but through it all, I received an almost overwhelming amount of support.
When I had mono, Tyler brought me countless Gatorades as I thought I was dying in my dorm room. Shane took me to brunch when I couldn’t find the will to eat. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, my roommate Robert was the first to find out. He hugged me in our living room as I bawled. My sorority sisters soon showered me in presents. When it was announced that my mom had beaten her cancer, Tyler and another friend Chris bought rum and Cokes to toast. When I’ve had days where I’ve had panic attacks and have disassociated, I’ve slept on Scott’s couch. And those are just a few examples.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it absolutely took a village to get me through college.
Without my wonderful friends, incredible sorority sisters, kickass Kansan coworkers and understanding professors and advisers, it’s hard to say just where I’d be. I’m forever grateful for everything y’all have done for me.
Through the adversity, there have been good times too.
Camping for hours with Scott and Jordan (OK, Scott did 95 percent of it.) to watch Andrew Wiggins and Co. suit up for a glorified scrimmage. Driving to Chicago with Tyler without telling my parents. Pouring one out for Charlie Strong with James (because don’t let any of this distract you from the fact that Kansas beat Texas in football). Friendsgiving. Rooftop drinking with Robert, James, Jeremy, Sam and Sean. Storming Mass Street after the Royals won the World Series. Breaking three forks during a single meal with Shane. Flying to Los Angeles to introduce Scott at a banquet. Spring break in Pensacola with Libby, Brigg, Robert, Jeremy, Molly and Ben.
Those happy memories are well worth the $87,041.55. To me, they’re priceless.
I’m at a loss for words as to how I’m supposed to approach these last few days. The hours we have left together are numbered. Scott’s off to Chicago to cover the Cubs. Shane’s headed to Minneapolis to cover the Twins. Tyler’s going to the University of Oregon for law school. Jeremy’s going to physical therapy school at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Robert’s student teaching in Tonganoxie. And the rest of everyone’s plans — including my own — are yet to be determined.
I couldn’t be more proud of these talented people. Selfishly, my heart breaks knowing that we’re all going different directions.
But that’s college. Upon graduation, we’re to spread our wings and fly. And that’s what’s happening. It’s not a new concept. It’s one that’s been around since the inception of higher education and it’s one that will last long after we’re bones in the ground.
These last few weeks have been both bittersweet, sleepless and stressful, but it’s a combination I wouldn’t have any other way. Looking back on the memories (the good ones, anyway), one thought keeps coming up — $87,041.55 well spent.