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My sister and I got a chance to go up to Stillwater this weekend to watch a little Oklahoma State basketball. This has been an event that hasn’t brought us much happiness lately, but when we get the opportunity to go do anything with OSU, we do it. No question. So, we grabbed the tickets, handed the kids to my husband, and headed down the turnpike. We made the very familiar drive West to our happy place, Stillwater.

As we pulled into town, we discussed the best way through town to reach historic Gallagher-Iba Arena, remarking on the landmarks as we passed. Usually what houses we had been in over our span of years in this humble town. You see, my sister and I are very proud alumni of Oklahoma State University. We spent 4 and 5 years in this beautiful place, respectively. At the time, I don’t think we thought of it as beautiful. I’m certain we were clawing to get out. No more school! We were going to be adults! Finally! We want to go back…. desperately.

We watched our Cowboys break their horrific losing streak on Saturday! In our elation, my sister looked at me and said, “A beer at Joe’s?” With a laugh I replied I was certain that wasn’t a question, because if she knew me but at all, she already knew the answer. Duh. So we walked down the short street and turned the corner, went to the bar, ordered two Joe’s cups of Bud Light, remarked how wonderful it was to have a choice (in our years it was Coors Light or nothing… ahhhh Stillwater), and headed to the outdoor seating (also new). We walked up to the rail, and immediately began to reminisce. The question we discussed most is why. Why do we love this place so much? It’s a quaint town in North Central Oklahoma. The only things there are the college, a few manufacturing plants, and plenty of farmers. Why is this our happy place when we have the whole world to choose from? The answer is simple. Because it’s where we grew up.

No, our family did not live there, and we were not birthed there. We both rolled into town at the ripe old age of 18. But, this is where we grew up. Those city limits are where we were shaped into the women we are today. We learned so much. Not just in the classes we attended (occasionally) and the papers we wrote (last minute) but the life experiences and COUNTLESS mistakes we made respectively. We both earned a world-class education, and two very solid bachelor’s degrees, but we learned from our peers, our mistakes, and ourselves.

As we stood on the deck on Saturday, I thought about my boys. I am dying for them to go there. Not just because it’s my school, but because I know what awaits them there. The mistakes they will make, the friends they will learn from, and the life they will form in those buildings and streets. The tears, the laughter, the sweat, and the blood that will make them proud, strong, kind men. My husband and I will lay the foundation, but through trial and error, lots of error, they will find their way.

I think that’s what college is all about. (Believe it or not, it is NOT about finding the one you are going to marry your first week at school, so stop trying. You are ruining your first semester.) Sure, we want our kids to get an education. A real actual degree so they can get a real actual job, and become real actual adults; but, we want them to be adults who know who they are and who have made monstrous mistakes. Who know they never want to do THAT again. The years between 18 and 23 are awful. If you really sit down and think about it, they are. When I think about the person who walked into Drummond Hall for Rush Week 1997 I feel sad for her. She was so lost. Quickly in her journey at OSU she ran into some pretty big walls, and knocked herself down something awful. But, she kept standing up.

I will never forget my years in Stillwater, and if someone would let me, I would return. However, I am sure I could not live in the conditions I did! Sharing rooms, apartments, dishes, rides, food, and time are things I can barely muster with my own family in my “old” age sometimes. But, cheap beer, penny beer, “pre parties”, laughter, “party pants”, house parties, Joes cup lighting, game days, game nights, “our song”, true love, not so true love, crappy jobs, amazing friends, and early classes are things I will never forget. I’m thankful for my friends, my roommates, and my time in Stillwater. Ride ’em Cowboys.