The photo that accompanies this blog was taken in March 2012 here in Louisville, Kentucky, at a Miranda Lambert concert. During the song, “The House That Built Me”, Miranda was overwhelmed with emotion and could not sing the song, so, the crowd of over 24,000 people sang it for her and to her. To hear that many voices sing in unison what is one of my favorite songs ever, for reasons I will explain in this post, was so moving. If you are not familiar with this song, allow me to make the introduction with this brief clip from the show: http://youtu.be/LnXqPR1YJyo
Now, please, allow me to introduce you to the “house that built me” and its occupants, for every time I hear this song, it takes me back there and to the people I love more than I can possibly put into words.
When I was a senior in high school, I knew without a doubt that I was going to attend Indiana University (IU), for it is a reputable university that is not not far from home, and it provided me with some good times during visits there. I applied to four universities and was accepted at all four, but IU was always my one and only choice. My parents were concerned about me attending such a big university and were skeptical about my choice, so, I was on a mission to prove to them during a campus visit that this was the place for me. So, we attended an organized event one Sunday afternoon that March, just two months prior to my graduation, and we were separated for much of the day. When we parted ways, I remember saying a silent prayer that they would love IU as much as I did and went off with a group of incoming students full of excitement and wonder. Then, a funny thing happened; my prayers were answered, but my carefully laid out plans crumbled.
On the drive home from IU, my parents were more enthusiastic than I ever had been or dreamed that they could be about my decision to attend such a fine university. They were happy, excited, and proud, and for reasons I still cannot explain, even after all of these years, I sat in the back seat feeling utterly scared, overwhelmed, and unsure. There was something inside of me that was literally screaming in my head and reverberating in my heart and baby soul telling me that IU was not where I belonged, but since I could not come up with a logical explanation for this intense feeling, I ignored it, or at least I tried to do so. The feeling did not go away and only intensified as graduation drew closer, and I kept trying to tell myself that I was just nervous about going away to college and that I would be fine once I got there for the fall semester. I never told anyone about my misgivings and suffered in silence until one day at the end of April, I walked in the back door of my family home after school and promptly burst into tears. My mom was perplexed and asked what latest teenage drama had unfolded to cause this outburst, and I couldn’t answer at first. Finally, I told her that I didn’t want to go to IU any more, which really threw her for a loop, especially when the only reason I could give was that it was a gut feeling telling me that I shouldn’t go there. Now, my parents are nothing if not pragmatic and logical, so, going with your intuition without a mountain of indisputable facts and evidence to support said intuition is a foreign concept to them, and since I waited until less than a month before donning my cap and gown to finally tell them I changed my mind, all three of us were now in a panic. We reviewed my other three college choices, and I quickly eliminated a small, private college in Louisville, as I wanted and needed to go away from here. I eliminated a private school in Ohio, because the only reason I even applied there was because my mom thought the campus was pretty, in addition to it having a good reputation. I knew I would never fit in there, though. So, that left one lone university for us to visit-the University of Dayton (UD) in Dayton, Ohio. It made the list only because I had visited it as a high school sophomore when my middle sister played in a field hockey tournament there, and it seemed like a fun place. In my defense, I did not research it more, because I was sure I was going to IU and only applied to the other three schools to appease my parents and guidance counselor, who all advised me not to put all my eggs in IU’s proverbial basket. Had I done the research, I would not have been surprised to learn during my first week as freshman that I unknowingly kept my streak of attending Catholic schools alive .
So, my mom and I made a hasty trip north for a day long visit, and much like I left IU’s campus knowing that it was not the place for me, the moment I arrived on UD’s campus, I knew I was in my new home away from home. It was the beginning of what can only be described as the most special and life changing four years of my life, and I treasure the memories and value those friendships immensely. I lived in four different places during my four years at UD, but when I think of the house that built me, I think of this one, where my five roommates and I resided during my senior year:
This house may not be the one of my childhood, like Miranda Lambert sings about in the song, but it is most certainly the place where I learned so very much about life, love, friendship, relationships, and myself. Canadian Bacon & Provolone sandwiches from Milanos, the Ghetto, St. Paddy’s Day celebrations that made me long to be Irish, laughing myself to sleep talking to my roommate, all that great 80’s music, Thursday nights at Flanagan’s, all night study sessions, hanging out with the boys, talking, living, and laughing with my roommates, couch burnings, the Deli, Bucket Night at Tim’s, Parents’ Weekends, UD sports, The Shed, and too many other people, places, and events to begin to list here all take me back to a very special time in my life. Of course, there were struggles and challenges along the way-heart crushing break ups, roommate drama, academic ups and downs, family issues, depression, etc. Through it all, though, the one constant remained the many extraordinary people I met along the way and whom I still am so very proud to call my friends.
When I hear this song, it reminds me of some of the best times of my life and of some of the absolute worst moments of my life. The good times far outweighed the painful times, but the latter left their scars that have faded over time. Had it not been for my friends, especially my roommates, the painful times would have consumed me. The friends who stood with me during those dark periods loved and accepted me, even when they didn’t understand me, and those who never knew the truth about those dark periods still just let me be myself. I also like to think that I am a better person for knowing the people from UD, but I won’t hold them responsible for the parts of me that are not my best.
Last year, when my world disintegrated, it was my UD friends who were among the first to rush to my side and have never left. Some of them had been there to witness the first time I had to ask for help to treat the depression, and they so lovingly and willingly came to my rescue again with their kind words, sense of humor, positive perspective, unwavering love, and true friendship. My dear friends did everything from lighting candles for me in Ireland to visiting me to keeping a steady stream of calls and messages coming my way to sustain me when I felt utterly alone. Despite all of the emotional turmoil and changes in my life, they recognized that I still was simply their ‘Kristi Jo’. I am fortunate enough to live within two hours of my roommates, so, when I get “homesick”, I run straight away to them to find solace in their hugs, laughter, chatter, and wisdom.
When I returned to UD for a reunion during the summer of 2010, I felt like I had returned “home”, and my heart was truly happy. As I look back now, I am taking the sage advice from one of my friends, for I am searching for something to run toward, rather than running away from something. It is hard for me to capture in words what it was like to return to the place that was my safe haven and to the people who were, and still are, my touchstones, but this excerpt from the song sums it up well:
“You leave home and you move on and you do the best you can
I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am
I thought if I could touch this place or feeling
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself”
Following my intuition led me to the place where I belonged and to the people I belonged with, and this is merely one example of how following my intuition led me to great joy and love. There are a number of other times when I have trusted my gut feeling and been rewarded in ways I never could have imagined.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story