Jennie often writes passionately about her love of her alma mater, Texas A&M, and how, as a child, she hadn’t imagined herself becoming an Aggie.

I graduated from the University of Illinois ten years, six weeks and four days ago. In some ways, it doesn’t seem like that long ago. In other ways, it seems like longer. I loved my time in Urbana-Champaign. I spent three years at the Daily Illini, the last year as campus editor. I made some wonderful friends there.

I spent two years entangled in a difficult and sometimes abusive romance with a man who I thought I might one day marry and who broke my heart a little bit every day we were together and for a good year after I got the strength to tell him we shouldn’t be together anymore.

I spent my senior year with my best friend, a woman I felt such a connection with I just knew we would be friends forever – until she became involved with the man who was still breaking my heart.

Senior year was joyful and complicated and bittersweet. I was on my own – no roommates, no boyfriend, no parents directing my every move. That was when I found myself, found who I really was; found the girl who could stay home on a Friday night to write papers for her English 300 20th Century American Women Authors class and play Flip Cups with the hockey team and  flirt with the goalie on Saturday night. I found the girl who believed passionately in President Bill Clinton and the injustice of a mascot that parodies Native Americans. I found the girl who learned to love herself for who she was, not who she was with. I found the girl who was a loyal friend to a fault. And I discovered the girl who loved cold white wine on a hot summer night, the Chicago Cubs, Old Style beer and the Beastie Boys.

For some reason, I was thinking about all this last night when I was pushing R around the neighborhood in her stroller, her little blonde curls bouncing as she urged me forward, forward, further away from home – don’t go home Mommy! Don’t go home! Someday she will go to college (sob!), but I hope I can put her on a path to independence before that. I hope I can teach her to find herself – and love herself – before she turns 21.

She’s already on her way.

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9 Responses to I-L-L…I-N-I

  1. Christina says:

    I loved that! I feel like those years are so huge in every young womans life. I think most of us have the same sort of story (my ass bf was in High School though) bad relationship and then self awakening. Even if it takes R to 21 she will be doing great. There are plenty of women who never know who they are or what they beleive in. Having such a strong woman as a mother will have her off on the right foot.

  2. Mandy says:

    ADORABLE picture. I always love your posts, and how they drudge up so many of my own memories. I often wonder if I would have had a time like that to myself if I would be a different (maybe better) person than I am today.
    You are a great mom to have this insight for your daughter, too.
    Great post!

  3. skiplovey says:

    Such a cute picture. Wow was college really ten years ago? Um yeah, time sure goes by fast. That’s lousy about your best friend though, geez.

  4. Erin says:

    Oh how I loved Champaign-Urbana! I learned so much about myself there. And plus…Pokey Sticks! We should totally go and spend a girls weekend there!

  5. Mar says:

    Sometimes it all seems so long ago.. and others like yesterday. I had a BFF who ended up marring my high school boyfrield. Yeah it sucked but I wouldn’t have what I have today if I still had either of them.

    I love the pic of R, you are a great mom and she is well on her way to great things as well.

  6. I think you’re lucky you found independence at 21. Mine only started around then…but I only really learned how to be myself when I was 25/26. And I’m definitely still a work in progress.
    Like you, I hope our children catch on a little quicker. 🙂

  7. These are some of the reasons I worried about having a daughter. I hope I can send her on the path of independence, too.

  8. Hurray for you! Most people don’t want their kids to grow up. I think it’s awesome that you see the real challenge of creating a successful independent woman from this beautiful baby! Yes!

  9. adorable photos. I mull over my daughter’s independence all of the time.

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