My First Year at Emerson College and My Parent’s Divorce

September 1, 1998, I turned 19.

I started Emerson College in the fall of 1998 with aspirations of becoming a published writer. In the weeks before the start of my freshmen year, I prepped myself. I bought all the essentials needed, packed everything I wanted, and said goodbye to my former life. I was ready to embrace my future. Getting to Emerson was easy; five hour drive from New Jersey to Boston, unpacking my things into my small single dorm room, getting the required books for class. But surviving my first year at Emerson was where the challenge laid.

During my senior year of high school, my parents started the long process of their divorce. Their “separation” period didn’t consist of the usual moving out of the house like most separated couples. Instead my dad moved across the hall into the spare room. At night the house was filled with their screaming. I slept in the garage turned bedroom so my nights were minimally effected, but my younger sister slept inches away. Some nights she would come to my room to escape the yelling. I remember watching her as she slept feeling guilty for wanting to leave her behind. I had to go. I had to get away. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Things between my parents heated up and my mother spent most of the weeks away. I took care of my sister, making sure she ate regularly, got to school on time, and did her homework. I was cooking not only for myself, but for her and my dad as well. On top of everything, I had to figure out how to pay for my not so inexpensive college education. During the day, I spent hours on the phone between my dad, mom and Emerson. Combined, my parents made too much money; financial aid only covered one third of tuition. The rest had to come from my parents. My dad was reluctant.

The issues my father and I never faced as I was growing up began to surface and the “daddy’s little girl” relationship started to dwindle. For reasons unknown to anyone but my dad, he was not willing to help pay for my college education at Emerson. By the end of the summer I could no longer trust the words coming out of his mouth. During heated fights he would tell my mother she wouldn’t see a dime from him for my tuition while on the phone with me telling me that money was on its way. I attended my first year because of my mom, who pulled out everything necessary so I could at least start the next phase of my life.

I started Emerson feeling guilty and excited. I felt bad for leaving my family behind but at the same time glad to finally be leaving. But the problems I was running away from quickly caught up with me. Throughout the year I was given weekly updates on the on goings of home. The regular threats, vandalizes and fights between my mom and dad, along with my guilt, began to affect me. I fell into a state of depression.

I had spent most of my freshmen year in bed sleeping. The more things at home sizzled, the more I slept. It was easier for me to escape the outside world rather than deal with it. The world in my head was better. When I slept, my dreams were better. In my dreams, all of my aspirations were real. In my dreams, my family was a family again. As children, we’re taught to distinguish the difference between real and imaginary. At that time, the imaginary was better than the real. I needed the better.
I passed the year with a C average and returned to a new house just a few miles away from the old. The summer turned into a bad repeat. The new school year was coming and again there was the issue of money. How were we going to pay for it? As a last effort, I took my dad to court. It was the only way we could think of to get his help. My dad was ordered to pay 5000 dollars, fifty percent of what it would cost to go to a community college in Jersey. Getting him to pay the money was harder than expected and I was pulled out of Emerson.

From that moment on I realized my dad could not be counted on. It was a lesson that even now pains me. The closeness we once shared would never be the same. I knew if I was going to get what I wanted I would have to fight for it without him by my side. My first year was not everything I had hoped it would be. The year brought about many changes in my life and jump started my premature independence. But it taught me a lot about myself and most of all it taught me that I have the strength to see anything through.

September 1, 1999, I turned 20.

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