Dia and I performed a few more times after that gig at The Electric Theater. With our practices becoming more and more rare and our enthusiasm tanking, I decided to pack a bag and try the "college" route.
I placed a stack of neatly folded jeans into my suitcase with my father's voice echoing from down the hallway, "You're only young once. You ought to keep at it." I shrugged off his advice and reached up for a few photos on my wall that I wanted to bring with me to my dorm. "You're going to regret this. You really don't need to go to college." I glanced up from my packing. Really? What kind of father gives his child the advice NOT to go to college. I had to convince him over and over again that I needed an education to find a real job, a steady income. I needed stability, and my sister and my little dream and our gigs around town weren't going to give that to me.
Of course, I didn't want to leave Dia to fend for herself at home while I went off to college. I realize now, looking back how hurt she felt and abandoned at my leaving. I tried to play down the enormity of my decision, because although I would never admit it out loud, leaving Dia was one of the hardest parts about my "grown up" decision. I held back tears and succeeded in my goal of showing no emotion. Why I couldn't have simply given her a huge hug, balled my eyes out, and asked her to beg me to stay, I'll never know.
I basically lived in a closet for a year, sharing half of the tiny space the University liked to call a "dorm room" with another really religious girl who frowned upon my cut-off jeans and late curfew. (I actually ended up becoming really great friends with her.) I did all the college "activities". I attended some really lame parties, drank a beer on a rooftop in the middle of the night with strangers, fell in love with a tortured artist, and flunked Political Science.
You know, it's true what they say. The professors at the U of U really do give their students personal attention. I remember one afternoon, while away on a weekend trip, my Political Science professor called my cell phone. My service was terrible, so I called him back on a pay phone. There I was, in a parking lot in who-knows-where listening to my professor tell me that I "didn't give the class my all" and he knew that "my new girl friend I was hanging out was trouble", and that he was prepared to let me take the class over again for free. And I didn't even know he knew my name the whole semester!
I worked at Abercrombie & Fitch while attending college. Aside from one really good friend who I could talk to about dreams and personal aspirations, I could never quite find my stride in retail. I passed the time avoiding the automatic perfume sprayer thingy from the ceiling. (I'm very sensitive to smell!) My boss would catch me in ten minute intervals darting behind display tables every time the pungent scent misted from overhead.
I had my epiphany, if you will, while working one of my afternoon shifts. I played a game in my head, listening to the repetitive techno music and trying to figure out the chord progressions of the songs and the intervals of the vocal melodies. That day, I'm not sure if the smell became a little too much for my sensitive nose or if thinking about Biology finals made me anxious, or standing at the entrance with that plastic smile on my face reciting the same tired line, "Have you heard about the new Emma flares?" was the straw that broke the camels back.
All I could think was…
What am I doing?
This is what my life has come to, huh?
After my shift I ran out of my place of work with all the little people who live inside my brain jumping in triumph. Later that evening I called Dia. Our conversation went something like this:
" Dia, you have got to get up here?"
"What? Why? I'm still in high school."
" I know, but high school isn't that important!"
"You're starting to sound like dad."
"So. I'm not coming up there."
"School isn't quite what I thought it was. My job, although I'm grateful, is not what I'm supposed to be doing with my life! We need to start playing music again. I've written a few songs. We'll find a new band. Just come up here... Please?"
"Please? There are cupcakes in Salt Lake..."