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52 Stories #27—Leaving Home

At age eighteen, I left home, more or less, to attend college in a town a couple of hours away from where my family lived in Casper, Wyoming. The University of Wyoming is located in Laramie, and my arrival there was a homecoming of sorts for I was born in Laramie. My parents dropped me off one beautiful late summer day, and for the first time I was on my own. After that, I would return to my parents’ home only for vacations. I was eager to begin my new life.

My high school buddy, Karen, and I received a room assignment in the women’s dormitory, White Hall. At twelve stories, it was the tallest building in the state. We had a corner room on the sixth floor and promptly set about personalizing it. We had already purchased coordinated bedspreads in a very 70’s-looking orange and avocado green. The room had three dark brown brick walls, and we painted the fourth wall gold. We felt privileged to have a sink in our room, but we had to travel down the hall for the toilets and showers.

Late in the afternoon of our arrival, after setting up our room, Karen and I explored the campus that would be our home for the next four years. We located the library and our Arts and Sciences College where she planned to study chemistry and I, psychology. We ran into a couple of guys from our high school graduating class who were also finding their way about the place. The cafeteria would not open for another day, so we spent a little of our precious funds to get a meal at a restaurant across the street from the dormitory complex. Back in White Hall for the evening, we met our neighbors and began to get acquainted.

Being suddenly cut off from any meaningful communication with my family felt very strange at first. Although we had a telephone on the wall in our room, I had no money for long-distance calls home. My parents never called me. I could write and receive letters, but composing them took time that a busy college student does not have. Only my mother wrote to me regularly. The built-in delays of back-and-forth letter writing made any meaningful conversation impossible. I felt alienated from my family, and we never regained the closeness we once had.

Yet soon enough, it did not matter so much. I had always liked school, and I enjoyed my studies. On Saturdays, I joined new friends to attend football games in War Memorial Stadium where we cheered on the Cowboys. On a couple of weekends when the team was away, someone with a car took Karen and me into the mountains surrounding Laramie for picnics.

In those early days, another welcoming place was Laramie’s Lutheran Campus Center. I had the opportunity to stay there one night while I was still in high school, so the place was familiar to me. I began attending services on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. The church was a constant in my life when so much else had changed. I met new people there, too, and attended the social events they hosted.

After a few weeks in Laramie I became accustomed to new routines and life on my own. I enjoyed my independence and the freedom it offered. The separation from my family began to feel okay. From then on, I concentrated on building my adult life. I had succeeded in leaving home.

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