Five years ago on a late September morning, my mom and I loaded my things in her red Nissan Sentra and left Portland for Eugene. In carefully packed boxes and bags were my linens, toiletries, very new computer, school supplies, and clothing for life at the University of Oregon.
We drove south through the Willamette Valley on I5 to UO, before joining the zoo of excited and frazzled first years and parents trying to navigate parking and a somewhat helpful campus map. We carried my things into Hawthorne, an old “honors” residential hall, and a 4-story brick building with students on the upper three floors; “girls” on the second, “guys” on the third, and “girls” on the fourth. The dorms.
Designated housing for honors college students, I would learn Hawthorne actually contained a broad mix of various honors and non-honors students compared to DeCou and Dyment. This would be the place where I met my next door neighbor and fell in a goofy and sweet love within a couple of months. This would be the campus where we walked hand in hand for a year and called each other girlfriend, curling up in the comfort of our lover’s “her.” I knew none of this my first day while standing in my room. And I didn’t know I’d be touched by licks of depression as early as my first term while staring at a star-flecked Willamette River or end up nearly submerged in an ice-capped ocean I’d barely survive my second year. I didn’t know I would leave Eugene without a backwards glance in June 2012. I didn’t know that my soon-to-be girlfriend, eventual ex, eventual near-stranger and I would adjust our pronouns and nouns for each other years down the road. I didn’t know I’d stop calling myself girl and lesbian. Left smelling the sweet grass, trees, and sand from the volleyball court, and the carpeting, furniture, and cleaning supplies of Hawthorne while chatting with my new roommate and planning my side of the room, I was just filled with excitement.