Free as a bird, by Deb Katie

So a song came up in my random lineup today. The song is called “Friends of P.”, and it’s by The Rentals, and the first time I ever heard it was the first semester of my freshman year of college. My roommate always had the college rock station on, so instead of my usual diet of Indigo Girls, Danny Elfman scores, and Sinead O’Connor, I listened to that.

Isn’t it amazing how one smell, one song, one glance at a photo, can transport you to another place and time?

In late August 1995, my mother drove me to Tallahassee, Florida, the home of FSU. I spent much of the car trip in tears because I was leaving my boyfriend and my cat (oh yeah, and my home/family). When my mom and I got to the dorm, we rearranged the beds and unpacked my stuff. She spent the night, and then, the next day, she left.

I remember walking around campus with my map. I had friends who were going to FSU, too, but I didn’t know when they’d arrive (and this is before cell phones, so you couldn’t just text somebody and find out where they were). I ate in the dining hall; I bought a few things from the campus store; I got my student ID and first ATM card, for Tallahassee State Bank, which had ATMs on campus. You could withdraw amounts starting at $5, with a 75-cent fee.

That night, a film school classmate of mine (we’d all met at Film School Orientation a few months earlier) called to invite me to the local coffeehouse. I remember setting the phone down and being completely blown away by the fact that I didn’t have to call anyone and ask if I could go out. I didn’t have to be back by a certain time.

I was on my own. And it all started that night.

Of course, in college, freedom means something different than it does once you hit the real world. Even if you’re working and paying your own way, you’re still in a bit of a cocoon. By the time you get to be a senior, you’re ready to strike out on your own, get away from campus, live your life.

When you’re living that life, looking for a job or working at one, when ATM cards are no longer a novelty and you’re so flush with cash that you can take out more than five bucks at a time… the independence of college life seems downright laughable.

But I can’t think of another moment in my life when I felt such a huge change in the fiber of my experience. Maybe the morning after my wedding, when I told the taxi driver, “I’m just waiting for my husband.” But nah, I think that’s second place. (And I know everything will shift around when there’s a baby in the picture… but I’m not there yet.)

Life is such an interesting journey, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s nice to crank an old song and wallow for a few minutes. Thanks for joining me in the wallowing!

Happy Tuesday!

~ Katie Alender

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6 Replies to “Free as a bird, by Deb Katie”

  1. I remember this feeling! “I remember setting the phone down and being completely blown away by the fact that I didn’t have to call anyone and ask if I could go out. I didn’t have to be back by a certain time.” It was dizzying!

  2. Okay, I’m sorry but I can’t get past that you STARTED college in 1995!!! 1995???? I was already halfway to old in 1995! Geez, I’m so old. Thanks for letting me get this far into our year together before realizing just how old I am!!!! And thanks for letting me relive my youth through you!

  3. AH HAH! I knew that there was a cat at some point in your life. But as you said, then your life changed, and you switched to dogs… A shame, really. But I’m not giving up on you just yet. 😀

  4. I never had that moment in college. Or even in Europe afterward. It didn’t come until after my divorce and I was sitting in my first ever apartment where I lived ALL BY MYSELF!!! It was the same freeing feeling though (maybe more so after a divorce). Scary as hell though too. I got the flu not long after that and in my feverish state I remember thinking, “No one will know if I die here of thirst.” which seemed a very real possibility at the time! Haha!

    I think it took me so long to get that feeling because I am such a rule follower. Do you know, I was a remarried woman, over 35, who lived in my own house (with my name on the title) before I realized that if I was hungry in the middle of the night, I could get up and have a snack? Our kitchen was OFF LIMITS after bedtime when I was growing up. I was (am) always so jealous of the characters in books who get up in the middle of the night for a snack and find a sibling or parent already there and they would eat something and chat…

    Anyway, even though, I too AM REALLY OLD COMPARED TO YOU, I still have these realizations every day. The other day, when I got my second serving of potato chips, I realized that if I wanted to, I could eat the ENTIRE bag. I didn’t, and I never have, but I COULD!

  5. Kristina, it seems we have a lot in common. Dizzying is a great word for it!

    Oh, Eve, hush! And Eve’s Mom, hush, too! You’re only as old as you admit on the internet, so start backtracking now.

    Jason, I was definitely a cat person growing up… have I ever mentioned that my high school cat is still alive? He lives with my parents… he’s 18 years old! The problem is, as soon as I left home, my allergies roared to life, after having been suppressed by exposure and proximity for so many years.

    Joelle, first of all, you’ve never eaten a whole bag of potato chips?? This is a sort of self-control to which I cannot relate. And midnight snacks are lovely, though I prefer not to have a witness.

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