I left home to form lifelong bonds with strangers – and my relationship with my mom ended up changing. In fact, my mom and I became best friends – just like Lorelei and Rory from Gilmore Girls.
My mother and I have always been close. Growing up without any siblings, she became my surrogate sister. Yet with our 36-year age gap, we were hardly the Gilmore Girl duo. The mother-daughter division was still very clear in our relationship, which kept me from sharing intimate details of my life with her. I saved those stories for sleepovers and kept those conversations in the classroom.
Honor roll, abstinence and an overall air of attempted perfection defined my pre-college years. In a way, I accidentally become the alter ego of my mom – an adventurous ex-party girl who loved wine, poetry and tarot cards. Sure, we would make Mac & Cheese and binge ’80s movies together at home, but when it came to school, work and relationships, we never gossiped like BFFs. We had different personalities and held different roles. She was my mother, not my friend. And we definitely didn’t watch shows – the Gilmore Girls or otherwise – together.
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Then the big 18 hit and I left for college. My bawling mom dropped me off at my dorm with my father, neither prepared to let go. But I was more than ready move on. I was sick of the safety and predictability of my adolescence, full of self-imposed As and approving looks from elders. I wanted to trespass the territory toward which I had always cast disapproving glances. What a better time to explore than the best years of my life?
Before she left my dorm, my mom gave me an old book of hers. “So you don’t get lost while you’re away,” she explained. It was a narrative about a good girl who heads off to college and gets caught up in the craziness. I hugged her goodbye and stuffed the book in a drawer – that girl wouldn’t be me. I was over-prepared and over-confident in my abilities to handle college on my own. My mom was the one who made the mistakes; my mom wasn’t me.
College hit me like an avalanche of brick-like books and broken hearts. The classes – and boys – were different than I imagined. At first, I sought refuge in my roommates, hallmates and classmates. Although I had only moved 20 minutes for school, people from all over the state, country and globe surrounded me in my hometown. Their different experiences and perspectives felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the high school friends I had known since kindergarten.
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Yet, as much as I loved my new company, they didn’t quite get it. They didn’t understand my incessant need for perfection or my dramatic mood swings. My classmates raised their brows when my eyes watered at a B written in red ink on my paper. My roommates failed to comprehend why I couldn’t fall sleep until 2 a.m. on weeknights. They hadn’t grown up with me and it would take 18 years to explain everything. Surrounded by friendly faces, I felt completely alone.
So I called my mom. Every day. Crying, fuming or frustrated, I escaped to a secluded spot and dialed my mother’s number. I realized that she was the only one who would completely know my past and help me make sense of my future.
I started to open up about the topics I had previously friend-zoned, from alcohol to sex to mental health. Surprisingly, she welcomed the secrets with open arms and ears. She jumped in without judgment, telling me boys usually suck and sometimes professors are pretentious, while assuring me that I was strong enough to handle it all. Drawing from her own “pre-me experience” she offered honest wisdom and advice. My nagging need to impress my mom faded away and I began to feel comfortable sharing my imperfections with her. Our conversations naturally flowed without filters – you know, the way you talk to your best friend.
Over the four years of college, I crossed paths with a lot of interesting people. I burned a few bridges and built a lot of lasting bonds. Yet I didn’t meet my best friend in college. It turns out she was the one who dropped me off at my dorm room four years before. It even turns out that we were the real-life Gilmore Girls.
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