The first time I met Emily, I wasn't even really officially in college yet. I mean, I guess I had been accepted. But I wasn't particularly attending. In fact, I was at orientation. Clemson is a big enough school where there are orientation sessions during most of the weeks of the summer. The leaders are there to help "orient" you with the campus, help you meet some new friends, and get you ready for the upcoming semester in the imminent fall.
I'll never forget the way we actually met. Emily was my orientation ambassador, as they are called, and there was a moment during the orientation where our group had some free time. We started a game of ultimate, and ended up playing a lot. Emily, in good sport, played despite her admittance that she wasn't very good. Quite the team player, that one. On the walk to the next activity, we got to talking a little bit, mostly about volleyball. By the end of the walk we already had a plan to play together on an intramural team that fall.
On the last day of orientation, as we all met up with our parents to head home, Emily sent the group an email, thanking us for being a great group. She included her phone number, and encouraged us to contact her with any questions or concerns we might have, whether it was during the summer, or after the semester started; whatever. I don't remember exactly how the next bit happened but I do remember that I ended up texting her, and as my family and I drove home (taking a longer-than-normal trip with several stops along the way) we talked endlessly. Every minute brought something new and exciting and we talked everything from religion to tattoos.
By the time I got to Clemson in the fall, Emily was the first person I went and saw after moving in. It was a great feeling to have someone there that I already knew was a great friend, and someone to spend time with. I ended up skipping most of the freshmen activities like Bowman block party, and some other social get-togethers, but I have no regrets about that. I was spending time with a wonderful girl.
Long story short, we ended up dating, and I even planned to go home with her for Fall Break that October (we started school in August, and began dating shortly thereafter). We had some great times, and I wonder sometimes if the reason that things ended was that we saw too much of each other. I think part of this had to do with the fact that I was a freshman, and sort of latched on to the opportunity to see her a lot. During one rough patch, just before Fall Break (at this point we had decided to hold off on the visit), she decided she had had enough and we were no longer dating. I knew things were a little tough at the moment, but definitely hadn't seen it coming. I remember saying the words "well, I had no idea that was coming." I then kissed her on the cheek and walked away, heart pounding.
It may sound silly but I was proud of myself in that moment. I was pretty upset, especially after it felt like we were just getting started. Regardless, Emily had a profound effect on me. She was outgoing and thoughtful, understanding and playful and my parents absolutely adored her. I liked her even more after she was able to so easily charm my parents (not usually an easy feat). We went to church with each other, and alternated between her Episcopalian church (or as she called them, the Episco-pals!) and my Catholic church. It was cool both being on campus and having it be so easy to see each other (just a 15 minute walk across campus). She was, after all, the first college girlfriend!
Today I think Emily is working in some sort of student affairs at another university. I know that things didn't work out, but no matter what I'll always learn something from relationships, and this one was no exception.