Four years ago from tonight, I made what was possibly the most important decision of my life.
Before moving to Orlando in July 2009, I told myself that my time at Full Sail would be about school. Those 21 months would be focused on learning about the film industry and getting to know myself better; not worrying about getting a boyfriend. I was confident that summer, that I could survive on my own.
I was excited that my roommate and I got along so well during our hour-long phone conversation. I still remember the last line of her "I need a roommate" email. It was signed, "Ryan Walker. PS, I'm a girl." I called her up and not long after, we agreed to be roommates. It was a very exciting time. My parents were great (they always have been) and helped me move and took me to Target and bought me things I didn't already have- a lamp, a desk, laundry detergent, etc. After they left I was surprised that I did not feel homesick or nervous, like I imagined that I would. I had Ryan. She instantly became by best friend in Orlando and I was so glad that she was around all the time. She walked to school with me and let me give her hugs. We sat next to each other in class and lab, laughing about the same things and enjoying each others sarcasm and dry sense of humor.
We started classes on Thursday, July 9th and I think it was the 10th when I met "Nick". He was sitting next to me in Behavioral Science and Leah Sadallah was asking him about the tattoos on his neck. I quickly mentioned that "I have a tattoo", showing off the star outline on my right wrist, before going back to typing a Facebook message to Alana. The guy's name was Michael Gore, but his voice and gestures reminded me of Nicholas Cage and he didn't mind me calling him Nick. I was sure he was older than me, being so tall and sporting trimmed facial hair.
Shawn McGee was his main friend at the time and they came with Ryan and I to an extra credit lecture. Inside, Nick complimented me on my nice handwriting. We exchanged phone numbers after the lecture and he came over to our apartment that night with a handful of other people to watch the movie "Crash". We had homework to write a paper on it later. I didn't tell Nick at the time, but I was disappointed that he sat in the back corner of Shelby's room for the movie, while I sat up front, close to the TV. I tell him all the time now. =)
Over the following week, Nick and I took several long walks around the Azure apartment complex. Although I kept telling him no, he told me that he would wait for me, until I was ready to be his girlfriend. He let me know that he would never give up and he seemed very honest about it. I often went for long bike rides during this time, praying out loud for guidance.
Friday the 24th I drove up to Gainesville with plans for the weekend. I was going to hang out with my ex-boyfriend and also celebrate Mia's 22nd birthday. The first couple of hours were fine, but once I got to Sam's Club with my parents and brother, Zach, I already wanted to leave. I needed to leave. I frantically texted Nick and Ryan, explaining my detrimental situation. I couldn't take it. Right then I hated being in Gainesville. It made the past couple of weeks at Full Sail seem like a completely wonderful dream and now I was awake and depressed.
Zach watched me as my body shook behind the passenger's seat, my eyelids failing to hold back tears. Finally Zach quietly said, "Mommy, Rachel's crying." I stopped trying to be quiet about it and let out a few low wails. I had to go back. When we got back to the house, I quickly threw everything back in my car. My mom didn't want me to leave, but I absolutely had to. I don't remember if I cried on the way "home" (my new home with my two new best friends) or what music I had playing, but I remember that as I drove back into Orlando, the dry heat caused lightning to flash. There may have been a light rain, but mostly lightning that flashed a few times causing the whole sky to light up, seeming like it was daytime for just a few seconds. I've always liked that type of lightning.
I changed my Facebook status to "in a relationship" when I got back to my apartment. It was only two and a half weeks into the school year, and I broke that "no boyfriend" promise. Thank goodness!
** Please note, aside from those few hours mentioned, I have enjoyed every other visit to Gainesville. =)