Three years ago today I arrived in Tennessee and I have lived here ever since. The day before I had finished my Freshman year of college and had packed everything from my dorm into my dodge neon to prepare for the road trip that would change my life. I left Wisconsin with a ring on my left hand and no intention to keep it there. I had acceptance letters from three colleges in Middle Tennessee two of which I had never seen in person. I had no idea where I would ultimately end up in the Fall and less than two weeks to figure out where I was going to call home.
The first nineteen months in Tennessee was one of the rockiest periods of my life. My move came as a snap decision in the span of four days towards the end of April. Two weeks after arriving in Nashville I broke off an engagement to a man who loved me more than anything else after he had already committed to a university in Wisconsin to be with me. I committed to moving back in with my parents for the foreseeable future and began a double major at a community college forty five minutes from my parents house. I jumped into a relationship with a horn player/musician salesman who promptly told me he loved me, started talking about marriage, and then promptly ran away to chase the girls he was doing marching band with.
I started classes at my new community college and began readjusting to life at home. I had grown up without a curfew and was shocked when one was being enforced now. I had spent the past nine months with the freedom to go where I wanted when I wanted and now found myself confined to the restrictions of my parents and our relationship suffered as a result. I began a sixteen month abusive relationship I still haven’t fully recovered from. The next season I joined the marching band my previous boyfriend had left me for. I quickly became friends with a group of three girls in my section who began the process of reminding me I was more than my home life and deserved more than my relationship. I was hospitalized. I jumped out of a car into the traffic of downtown Nashville on a Sunday morning. I began lashing out in my relationship and for the first time since I left Wisconsin I began to remember what it felt like to fight for myself in a way that reminded me what it felt like to truly be alive. I left my boyfriend and I transferred to a different university in Tennessee two hours away.
I made new friends and I lost two of the friendships I had made in Nashville along the way. I began living alone and started learning what it meant to take care of myself again. I met a guy I thought I wanted a relationship with and it turned into friends with benefits instead. I joined a Panhellenic sorority and for the first time in my life I began to experience the feeling of having a group of girls I was close to who actually wanted to spend time with me. I reconnected with my best friend from high school. I started to get my life back on track and learned what it meant to start rebuilding my life.
Then I learned what it felt like when bad decisions compound on themselves and mix with other traumatic events in your life. I learned what it means to have friends by your side who will do anything for you. I learned how easily one bad decision can rip several people from your life. I learned what it is like to stand by someone’s side as they go through hell and then have your closest friends walk away when you need them most. I found my best friend in a guy who happened to be in the right place, at the right time, on a day when I thought my world was going to end. I watched our friendship get tested in ways that have made every other person in my life up until that point walk away. I began to open up to someone about my PTSD and they showed me I no longer had anything to fear.
In the span of three years I have witnessed the legalization of gay marriage across the United States from the southern perspective. I rediscovered my faith and have watched it grow. I changed my stance on several political issues in ways I never would have imagined. I became the girl who drinks Miller and Whiskey. I fired a gun for the first time and I am in the process of applying for my concealed carry permit. I discovered that football truly is a different experience in the SEC and that Division I Football isn’t the same outside of the Big 10. I started a blog. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and watched it change my life for the better. I took a road trip to Virginia in the middle of the night on a Tuesday with my best friend just because we could.
Today I celebrate three years in Tennessee and while it has been more than a little bit of a bumpy ride I wouldn’t go back and change it for the world. As I begin my fourth year in a state I am still learning to love I prepare for the adventures I could have never seen coming when I so boldly got in my car to drive half way across the country three years ago. I never could have imagined one bold decision could have changed my life so drastically and it reminds me as I push forward I need to continue to embrace the confidence I felt when I got in my car on May 15th 2013 and drove across the boarder of Wisconsin into Illinois without looking back.