The Summer of ’99

It was the summer of ’99. I was halfway through college, and living on my own for the first time. A lot of people are looking out for you in college, so it really doesn’t count as being on your own. But that summer there was really no one responsible for me, but me. And I really felt that responsibility. I breathed it in and cherished the opportunity.

It became a summer of questions, a summer of growth, a summer of new opportunities. I landed an internship in my field that summer. For the first time in my life I wouldn’t be doing a mindless job stocking frozen peas or something inane like that. I’d be doing what I went to school to do. Of course I wasn’t yet paid for it that summer, but that kind of goes along with the field. Poverty and writer go hand in hand, so that summer was really preparing me for a lot of things at once.

That was also my first summer away from home. I haven’t spent a summer at home since. Friendships that were already strained by 9 months of college were pushed even farther, and it didn’t help that my church began to fall apart. It was complicated and downright confusing, but some people had been slighted, they left the church, it caused a big uproar, some more people left the church. When the smoke cleared a few years later there was a new pastor, and a revolving door of church members. Some left for good, some left for a while but later returned, some left and came back and left again. I never had the option because I never lived at home again.

That summer my parents separated. It’s the battle scar of a generation, a rite of passage. They tried to work on things, ended up divorcing a few years later, and then in a bizarre twist re-marrying about a year and a half after the divorce. That was last month. But that summer it was a bombshell. When I went home to visit, I found it wasn’t home anymore. I helped my mom move the stuff out of the house and into an apartment in a daze, with awkward silences and laughter, jokes that didn’t quite land and probably shouldn’t have taken off.

That summer I also had a new girlfriend. We’d been dating for a month when I moved down to Chicago, but we’d been good friends for a few years before that. She lived in Green Bay, and we spent more weekends than I care to admit meeting halfway in Milwaukee. I later married that girl.

It was a time of nearly violent change in my life. And I loved it.

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