A year and a half ago, I packed up all my things and left my Nicevillian home for the bustling metropolis of Baton Rouge, Louisiana to begin a new chapter of my life: college.
Up until this point, I had really only been to Louisiana once and that was for the purpose of visiting the school I would later attend. It was nice and I liked it a lot though I wasn’t crazy about it. But I had decided on the school before I even visited. Actually, my whole college application experience was a little backwards.
You see, when you are a senior in high school, everyone thinks that the best way to engage in small talk with you is to ask what your plans are after graduation. My answer changed every week. Because I didn’t actually want to go to college, I wanted to fly to Africa and love on orphans and teach English and all that jazz. But my parents and my band director (who is more like a third-party parent) really wanted me to go to school. And me, being the people-pleaser I am, resistantly gave in to their advice.
So March of my senior year had come around and I still had no plans. One day, I was sitting in my band director’s office discussing college-like things when he brought up LSU. This was not a school that was even close to being on my radar. His best friend is the assistant director of bands at LSU, and he said that there is a scholarship that is offered to out-of-state, non-music majors. If you participate in the marching band, they will pay for your in-and-out-of-state tuition. However, it is an audition-based scholarship. I told him to tell LSU I was interested in the scholarship and left the office. I came back later to hear my band director give me the news: I got the scholarship.
Apparently, my sitting first chair in Niceville’s Wind Ensemble was audition enough for LSU.
So, I applied and got accepted to the school. Then I visited the school and met with the director. Then I packed up and hit the road for this new adventure.
My first semester was terrible. I cried OFTEN. In the first month of college, I got stuck in my dorm for Hurricane Gustav. (Though we got a week of free food during the clean-up time!) And then I got hit by a car (that’s for a whole different post). I didn’t know why I was in Louisiana. And to be honest, neither did anyone else. When I finally had an answer to the dreaded question, people gave an array of responses.
“That’s a party school.” Perhaps. What are you trying to say?
“Really? Why LSU?” I don’t know. Why Niceville?
“It’s dark there.” Oh.
“I can’t believe you are moving to Louisiana. What is in Louisiana anyway?” Not you.
But my parents were supportive. My mother faithfully talked me down every time I threw a tantrum for having to study for exams. To be honest, if it wasn’t for her, I probably would have quit after the first semester. Thankfully, I didn’t. Firstly, through a series of events that would unfold over the next two semesters, God completely turned my world upside down. In a good way. Secondly, I fell in LOVE with Louisiana. It is a whole new world here. From crawfish boils and hot boudin, to LSU football, to Mardi Gras, to strange words that are used in everyday life like boo coo and lagniappe. The people are fantastic, though they are terrible drivers. And holy moly, the live oak trees. The country is stunning.
All that is to say that I went on a bike ride this morning through the Garden District. The old neighborhoods that sit on the University Lake offer a unique brand of serenity. It’s moments like those where I thank God for simply letting me be alive. But, it wouldn’t be Louisiana without some fun.
I passed the local grocery store and got to watch two old ladies snapping at each other about where to put their eggs. I passed a man sitting in his boat out on the lake. He had all his fishing gear and was ready to go. However, he was facing the land. As I got closer, I watched him cast a line onto the grassy bank and wind it back up. He did this two or three times. What in tarnation is this guy fishing for?! I wanted to give him a few pointers, but he seemed so content. I couldn’t possibly interrupt his morning with convention. I also passed several houses that had deer heads covered with Mardi Gras beads over their front door.
Indeed, this place forever has a piece of my heart.