Today in class we took turns reading excerpts from our portfolio essays. I didn’t read mine. I hadn’t had a chance to practice reading it aloud, and I wanted to read it well.

The reading portion of class was expected, but the professor had a little surprise for us. For each reader, she selected two people to give responses. My impression was that the responses were to be positive. This was to be a celebration of work that we liked and liked creating.

For the most part, the responses were blandly positive. The professor did make one exception – for some reason, she nitpicked one girl’s reading, but none of the student responders gave anything negative. I didn’t, though I wasn’t sure I had responded positively enough.

The essay I was to respond to was a relatable, simply told tale of what it was like to leave home and go away to college, and then come back. That’s just about what I said, though I did quote some nice phrases that the author used as well as good voice.

But it made me think of my freshman year of college, fourteen years ago in 2001. This author’s experience and mine could not be the same. I left home only a few weeks before 9/11. And exactly four weeks after that event rocked the nation, my ex-boyfriend committed suicide and turned my mind and heart inside out.

I had a hard time listening to the essays that followed that one. My face heated as I thought about those events and how they affected me at the time. How they affect me now.

I guess that essay did more than the author intended. By calling up this almost stereotypical tale of the changes that can happen when one goes away to college, she reminded me of the differences timing can make, and the uselessness of holding on to regrets. Without intending to speak to my specific situation or memories, she nonetheless made an effective impression.

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