About this time of year, when I’m reading all the college students’ statuses (or, more accurately, the statuses of my friends who work on college campuses), I reflect on my own experience at Ohio U. It was, hands down, the four best consecutive years of my life.* 

When I arrived to my West Green dorm room, I knew one person. I intended on living the college life to its fullest. Little did I know what that would look like. 
My first week of school I filled out some survey at the dining hall (much like the bazillion surveys I had filled out at the Taste of Athens/Freshmen event). A few days later 2 gals knocked on my dorm room door to invite me to a pizza party. They used a few key words: Free. Pizza. Party. You mean I could meet people while eating something I didn’t pay for? IN. My roommate opted out, but I had no fear back then and showed up solo. 
I walked in and a few girls said hi. We played a round of 4 on a Couch , ate Papa John’s, and Jill shared her story about how God had changed her life. It was nice, I felt welcomed and they invited me to come back to a different place (Morton 237) on Thursday. 
Uh, Morton? Allllllll the way across campus? I don’t even have class in that building. Then 2 girls chimed in: We’ll pick you up! We live behind west green and drive over. 
So I arrived at 180 and they sang. And clapped. What the wha? Def not my experience with all things Jesus-y. But it was nice. I awckwardly stood with my arms folded but smiled. I heard a great story and I’m a sucker for a good message – no doubt BMac was the one speaking that night. And after it was all over, I walked down the stairs to leave and a girl turned, looked at me and called me by name. Tessa was authentically excited to see me. 
I kept going back to 180, making a few friends here and there. I joined those girls who drove me in a weekly Bible study. I hid my Bible when I walked down the hall – then it turned out that Steph did that, too. By Spring quarter we could at least admit it freely. 
We would hang out on weekends, eat chili cheese dip and play Psychiatrist, ie the best group game ever. For spring break we took a large bus down to Panama City to tell people about Jesus – one more completely foreign form of God stuff that made me wonder if I was in over my head and my parents wonder if I had joined a cult. 
I met more girls on that trip. I began to eat in the dining hall with Allison and I even branched into the East green girls for friendships. Jill and I would take walks down the bike path and she tried to teach me to rollerblade. 
That freshman year started something big in my life. It introduced me to Jesus as I never knew him. It showed me friendships as I’ve never experienced them. When people ask me why I loved my time at OU so much, I now realize that it’s so dear to me because this is where I learned what love looks like
Only once in the 4years did I have the same roommate twice (Ziska wins!) because my circle of friendships began to run deep and wide. These women who journeyed with me had a capacity to forgive, to love as I was and to encourage me to live into the person they saw I could be. When I walked around the apartment without pants, they rolled their eyes. When I wore the same pants for 5 days they shook their head. We shared late night talks, tears and uncontrollable laughter. 
And Jesus. Well, He showed up in those 4 years in ways I had never expected. I realized that faith was more than something I did on Sunday. Jesus got into the core of who I was and completely rearranged me. My dreams of working in a big office in the downtown, wearing trendy dress suits and make up – those disappeared by my junior year. I knew clearly that I was made for something else. 
Little did I know that it would translate into a season of living on pizza and late nights with teenagers. And then into coordinating meal trains and writing random blog posts about life or the Bible passages I never read quite like that before. 
I don’t always get to talk with my girls from OU. We really only gather around weddings, save the random trips by one of us to see another. But when we finally pick up the phone, when we get off the plane – we pick up at the same place. One of the girls in our circle said it best: it’s like our spirits mesh
So I keep all of this years’ freshmen close to my heart at this time of year. I never imagined a survey, a pizza party, a ride and my name would matter so much to the greater path of my life. But they did. They do. Someone’s prayers, someone’s efforts to include me – they made a difference. They changed me. They provided some of the best friends and a basis for faith for the rest of my life. 
Here’s to the Bobcats, the community of people who planted seeds of faith into my life and even stuck around to do the hard work of weeding and sheltered me during storms. I can only pray that each of my kids find themselves among such kindred spirits, friendships that shine true light. 
Future Bobcat, class of 2036
*I’m not sure how to include my 7 years of marriage in this. They’ve been great, too. But the 4 years at OU was highly-concentrated goodness. Marriage wins on the point of longevity. 
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