Hello! Welcome to day 2 of the #UltimateBlogChallenge! I am reposting a blog I wrote a while ago as today has been one of those days of sheer exhaustion. Dodson has an upset stomach and waking up in the middle of the night is draining on my already minimal sleep. For your reference, the Lee in this post is in fact the same Lee who helps with my Facebook page. He adds photo captions for my blind readers, as well as being the designer of the logo! I love him dearly and you’ll see he has never stopped being a wonderful friend. Please enjoy these memories I share with you in all their endless joy.
Ah, college. For most, these are the four golden years of youth, debauchery, and perhaps most memorable, student loans. Many think that being visually impaired, this would mean that my experiences are far and few in between. I can tell you, they certainly were not. The blindies can party hard, (and hardly party, but that’s beside the point!)
when I think of college, I fondly refer to my brief stint at UC Santa Cruz. I attended that beautiful; green campus for two quarters. Through torrential rain, demonic turkeys, and rising house prices, that campus embodied many things for me. It embodied a new chapter of my life, one filled with independence and problem solving of my own. I was living 320 some odd miles away from home, so I literally put myself in the middle of nowhere. And I loved it.
Whilst there, I became friends with this amazing human named Lee. He was everything you wanted in a college best friend: quirky, spontaneous, adventurous, and a Gilmore Girls fan. (he never finished the series, whereas I have watched it about four times now.) it was Lee that accompanied me in almost all my favorite college memories. I’m forever grateful to have him in my life. I’ll see if I can find that picture of us with the infamous Squiggle up on social media somehow.
The Night of the Slurpee
So, it looks like we’re starting backwards in storyland. The Night of the Slurpee happened two nights before Lee left UCSC, a whole week before I could leave. (he only stayed for two quarters as well.) one of his best friends from back home came to help us pack up his things, so instead of making this a sad, let’s-all-cry-and-pretend-our-lives-are-ending, we turned it into a party. We camped out in his cramped dorm room on the sixth floor, cramming three humans with WAY too much stuff and WAY too many energy drinks into a space that could barely fit one person. We gossiped and ate junk food, playing our favorite songs and generally not giving a damn about what was going on outside of room 611. we wanted to give Lee the best possible sendoff ever. we had PLANS! But those plans 1ladies and gentlemen, did not curb the sudden, unquenchable craving for Slurpee’s.
You would think that the time being 2:30 A.M. would have deterred me from my best, yet worst, idea ever, right? Apparently not. I suggested to my two sighted, no car possessing friends that we make a trip to 7-Eleven in downtown Santa Cruz. It’s a twenty-five-minute walk in shady, unlit areas with tons of hills and plenty of terrors for two young women and their male friend. But hey, Slurpee’s, right? (we have priorities!) Either way, I convinced my friends to get dressed, (of course in our fluffy PJ’s, with one of us going so far as to wear reindeer fluffy slippers.) Those slippers defined us, I swear.
When we finally made it down to the ground floor, (we had to stop to “what are thoooose!” the iconic slippers. We were very much in 2017, I tell you. We quickly realized that buses stopped running, so that PROBABLY meant that our favorite bus driver was NOT driving Route 16. We quickly decided to catch an Uber, which would have been the safest thing to do, were it not for the fact that our driver was A: completely eerily silent, but B: sped off, leaving us in his literal dust when we arrived. (side note, at no point during this did we stop to consider that 7-Eleven might have been closed. The Slurpee cravings are real.) Needless to say, we got our Slurpees. The power of the reindeer slippers and our over energized entrance and complete takeover of that shady 7-Eleven was the only thing that deterred the store owner from possibly calling the cops on us. As most SC residents called it, we were “the problem slugs”.
Redwoods, Ghosts and Bongs
Another of my favorite memories occurred earlier in that same month with Lee. I may or may not have ditched class for the first day of spring. By this point, I had lost most of my vision, so I relied on him to tell me when to duck, dive, or otherwise avoid the treacherous terrain. We took a walk through the marvelous redwoods, and it was perhaps the most down-to-Earth experience I’d ever had. Being newly and completely blind, I was exposed to the many gifts that our redwood forest had to offer. The ground was thick with moss, everything was green, and it SMELLED so beautiful and clean, something living in Southern California for my entire life never offered me. I got to feel the dappled sunlight and hear the scurry of animals that are so often found in fantasy books. I felt like I had been transported to an entirely new world.
We trudged through the forest for what felt like hours but what was only about two. when we emerged in a clearing, we found ourselves in Porter Meadow. This meadow is not only famous for being haunted, but it’s also famous for being the den of most parties, drug exchanges, and hippie fun times. Being from a relatively drug-free lifestyle, I’d never really been exposed to weed, bongs, vapes, and all the other paraphernalia. So, when we stumbled across a shirtless hippie dude lounging with a boom box and a bong about two feet tall, boy was I amused. He was higher than possibly the nearest mountaintop, so he didn’t realize we were there, but he was so utterly calm, that the meadow itself felt somehow different from the rest of the forest.
From there, we somehow made our way back into downtown Santa Cruz, where we caught a bus and stumbled our way to the beach, where choppy waters raked the sandy beaches and tumbled rocks and wood haphazardly. So, in true Nat style, this meant that I had to roll up my jeans as far as they could go and charge into the ocean.
It’s at this point that I’d like to point out that I may have been very courageous, or just high on life. I like the latter, personally. I splashed around, getting myself completely soaked in clean fresh ocean water. Lee and I took pictures, grinning like idiots and simply…. lived. No phones, no worries about school, no expectations. Just the idea of living in that moment, basking in the sun and enjoying each other’s company.
I could go on and on about my adventures in Santa Cruz. Although I missed my family very much, including the birth of my nephew and several other personal things, my time away from SoCal taught me that certain parts of life were, ultimately, good. Wholesome. Meaningful. It taught me to not only appreciate my newfound independence, but to appreciate nature, friendships, and most importantly, it taught me to appreciate myself and to nurture my adventurous side. always, a banana slug, albeit more turtle now. Perhaps I will one day write about the time I ended up in a knee brace at UCSC, or my two no good, terrible, really bad roommates, or even my one really great roommate and her partner, but that will have to be for another day. Advocacy never stopped, not even in dreamy Santa Cruz, but I had an amazing support system ready to welcome me. But alas, another story for another day.