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I’d spent that year’s New Year’s Eve dance alternating between dancing alone and providing a listening ear for my friend jak, who was going through a rough patch. Since jak wasn’t finished talking by one in the morning on New Year’s Day, I offered him my address and telephone number and went home. The next day I awoke with the feeling that I absolutely needed to leave my parents’ house for good and all. There were only two things standing in my way. I needed to get my driver’s license and I needed to graduate from community college.

I had been attending community college classes on and off for the last ten years as funds would allow and had actually made the dean’s list a couple of times with a B+ grade average. I even learned that I work best when I am surrounded by noise. I always did my homework in the campus hub during lunch time, where the constant buzz of conversation made it easier for me to concentrate, strangely enough. Now, at the beginning of 1998, I checked my requirements for graduation and discovered I had everything covered. So, I filled out the paperwork and was given a certificate and told that, if I wished, I could attend commencement exercises on the following Sunday. I declined by reason of the fact that I expected to be in church at the time. Step 1 complete!

Over the past ten years, I had also been studying driving. My mother taught me some. Her childhood friend, Ben, had taught me a fair amount and I had also spent a lot of money for professional driving lessons.Now, I know, normally, that people usually get their first driving lessons at 16. My parents had opted out of that for the very specific reason that they thought I would get into an accident while trying to read while driving. Now, at 28 years old, I finally got down to the DMV and took the driving test. I passed the written easily. The practical, however, I was scared to death about. I only had one car available to me. My mother’s car. It had a manual transmission (that means it was a stick shift). I knew, though, that if I meant to be on my own by the end of the year, I had to be able to drive. So, I brought my mother’s car. To my great surprise, I was able to do everything the examiner told me to do, until we got to a red light and she suggested I head back to the DMV. I made a mistake in shifting and we hiccupped all the way around the corner. The result was that I passed, but only barely, with a score of eighty-one. Anything less than eighty and I’d have had to come back in a few months and try again. Step 2 complete!

Finally, now that I had everything I knew I’d have to have, the next thing I needed was a destination. My friend, Beeker, had decided to attend school in Klamath Falls in Oregon. When I told her that I needed to be on my own before 1998 was over, she suggested I apply at the school she was trying to go to and become her roommate. So, with her help, I filled out the application and we sent it in. When I told my mother about this plan, she said she thought that Central Washington University (CWU), in Ellensburg, was also a good bet, especially since it was so close to home. So, with her help, I filled out an application for that college as well. My mother, having business in that general direction, turned it in for me.

Meanwhile, as I waited to hear from one of these colleges, I received a letter and two telephone calls from jak, who was currently at school at CWU, had decided to upgrade his living situation and was moving into a four-plex with three other guys from our church. There was generally a dance in each of our church branches every month, which meant a dance every other week. The Kittitas Valley Branch was always invited to our dances and we were always invited to theirs. The reason for this, I believe, was, since we were all of an age to choose mates and get married, it was believed that this would provide us with a greater opportunity for socialization.

When I met jak at the next January dance, held at my city’s branch, he suggested that it might be more efficient if he came and picked me up for all the dances, those in my home town and those in Ellensburg. Since jak was my friend and I loved dancing, I agreed. If I’d still been searching for a man, I’d have thought of this as a date. Instead, I just thought of this as the offer of a good friend. The first time we went to a dance together, however, jak surprised me by trying to kiss me.

“I don’t kiss on the first date,” I said, even though I never thought of it as a date. Instead, we sat on the back porch and talked until my mother came out and told us we were being too loud and keeping family members awake who needed to sleep, so we went across the street and sat on the bus bench and talked and talked and talked. Around midnight, my mother came out again and told us that it was late and I needed my sleep. So, I said good night and went inside. During the next several weeks while I was waiting to hear from a college, jak and I practically camped out on that bus bench as often as we could. We discussed everything and nothing. In a strange way, jak became a closer friend to me than Beeker had been.

Then, one day in mid-March, I got an official looking envelope in the mail. I had been accepted to a college.

Question Time: Did you know when it was time for you to leave your parents’ home? What sort of preparations did you make? When did you take your first driving test? Did you pass? What kind of car did you drive? My inquiring mind wants to know!

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