The Fall after high school graduation I entered the University of Southern Mississippi. Of the “popular”group in high school, the majority went to Ole Miss, a few to Mississippi State and I, alone, went to Southern Miss. That first semester was full of adjustments as it would be for any Freshman that came right from their parents home. I spent that semester in the Phi Mu dorm with a very nice roommate and many nice girls. I had a lot of fun, maybe too much.
I had a wonderful English teacher/newspaper advisor in high school, Mrs. Hyche, that took me under her wing and made me think that I could be a reporter if that is what I put my mind to. She had more impact in my life than she will ever know. My first job was at local radio station during high school and I caught the reporter bug. I hosted the Dedication Hour, funny huh? Listening to teeny boppers dedicate the latest Chicago song to the “love of their life”.
Once at USM, I majored in Broadcast Journalism. I was going to be the next local reporter, I knew I had to work my way up to CNN. However, the head of that department had the DULLEST classes, I would nod off and that was not like me to do. I might not have been a straight A student, but I was respectful and at least acted interested. Well, until this professor’s class. I quickly changed my major to Journalism/Public Relations, there was no way I could handle 4 years of his lectures. I am sure that decision allowed Katie Couric to propel to the position she is in today.
When I returned from Christmas break my Freshman year, I moved out of the Phi Mu dorm and it was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. I moved into another dorm and the day I moved in I was sitting on my bed and there was a knock at the door. I answered it and a sweet girl named Gayla was standing there asking to move in since I did not have a roommate. One of her best friends from her hometown lived down the hall and she did not know anyone else at USM. I said yes and from that day forward she rarely saw her friend down the hall because we became inseparable. Although our lives are miles apart now, she is still a friend of mine.
That summer I was looking for a fun adventure, so one of my high school friends and I moved to Destin, FL where I waited tables at The Back Porch Restaurant. It was fun and the skin damage I have today is from that summer of too much fun in the sun!
I returned to USM for my Sophomore year and Gayla and I moved up in the dorm world into one with suites. This is when we started hanging out with Olga, my friend from New Orleans, remember the one that forgot to build the ark before Katrina hit. She would come over and visit in the afternoons and too many times we would say, hey, let’s go to New Orleans for the night (it was about an hour and 15 minutes away). We would all look at each other, throw down our books and get dressed. As a direct result of those New Orleans trips, I failed Statistics. Plus the fact that as a journalism major, I did words, not numbers. It also did not help that I could not understand my professor because English was not his native tongue.
I had to make at least a C in every class for my funding to continue. So, the Spring semester I moved home, got a job at the local hospital’s health club and started classes at the community college. It was during this time that I met my first love, my first real, long-term boyfriend, Raymond N. McKay. He was training to be a Marine Corp pilot at the Navy base in my hometown and I just adored him. I returned to USM the next spring and continued my degree work. Gayla had left and went to Mississippi State, she just could not bear to be without me at USM, just kidding. Actually, God had it planned for her to meet her downstairs neighbor, a high school friend of mine (weird coincidence, huh), and marry him.
Olga and I became roommates and I continued to date Ray. He had received his wings, and of course I was there to celebrate and then he was stationed in Cherry Point, NC. I got a job at another hospital based wellness center (gym) in my college town where I worked the rest of my college years. Ray sent me flowers every week at college, he never forgot. Always made sure that I knew he was thinking of me and loved me. It got to the point after he was stationed in North Carolina that he just sent Olga money and she was to buy the flowers for me. She did for a while, then she just gave me the money so I could put it on my school phone card to call him(before cell phones). He then was transferred to Yuma, AZ to fly Harriers with VMA Black Sheep Squadron and it was make or break time. We made it through his flight training and winging in Mississippi, long distance relationship when he was stationed in North Carolina (my first plane trips were to see him there several times and meet up with him in Key West), and now to Yuma!
I had met some people who played soccer and started going out and kicking the ball around with them that first semester back at USM. I had never played soccer before but was pretty athletic and took to it. O.K., I became a little obsessed with it.
So, when Ray wanted me to move with him to Arizona and sent me a college packet that was from the University of Arizona Yuma, the Desert Campus, I freaked a little, O.K. a lot. Did they have grass out there? (yeah, yeah, I know now) Could I play soccer on sand? Was I ready to make such a big leap? Give up my life in Mississippi, move away from my family, transfer colleges? He flew me out for week, we had a wonderful time, BUT….
I loved Ray deeply, we were incredible together, but I was young, very immature. I decided against it (MARRIAGE OPPORTUNITY FAIL, sent my golden aviator wings necklace to Yuma in a tear stained envelope). I continued working, going to school, and dated some nice guys; a soccer player and Army Ranger off and on until I graduated.
I moved out of the dorm and into an apartment with a girl named Karen that played on the USM soccer team with me. Four and a half years after my first semester away from home, I graduated. Yes, it took four and a half years because there was one more soccer season I could play. So, I did an internship, worked at the wellness center and played soccer my last semester.
During this time I met EJ playing soccer. He had graduated college years before and had an actual job as an auditor for a bank. We dated a while and then were engaged even though we really did not want to get married. I just thought it was what I was supposed to do because I had graduated college and was dating a nice, stable guy. We had not made any actual plans to marry, I just had the ring.
The Park Wife