I met my soulmate when I was 18 years old. I was wrapping up my senior year of high school, more than ready to high-tail it out of my ever-shrinking small town. I was heading off to college, to a massive school whose student number was nearly 50 times the population of my hometown. I knew no one there. I filled out a “match profiler,” skeptical and fairly hopeless. How would it ever work out? What were the chances I would find someone willing to put up with my weird quirks, my initial shyness, my inevitable homesickness – all of the things you try to keep hidden behind smiles and newly purchased school apparel?
But I did.
I got a message from a stranger, claiming that my email address caught their attention. The address was based on my favorite cereal. I wish I could say it was a clever play on a cutesy child’s cereal, but no. It was Grape Nuts. I love Grape Nuts, and thank God, because those delicious, gravelly rocks beloved by me and everyone over age 70, led me to my perfect match.
This was the beginning of a beautiful love story. Somewhere she is rolling her eyes and groaning at this, commenting on how *ridiculous* it is, emphasizing her point with asterisks, as always. But that’s just what it is. Although we do joke now that we’re “life partners,” it isn’t that kind of love story, I’ll admit.
I found my soulmate in my college roommate. My roommate soulmate.
When we first met at orientation, for about five minutes, I remember thinking that she was an extremely tan, Pocohontas-haired, very tall, lovely girl. I was pale and hadn’t mastered eyeliner, had just chopped my hair off, stood a whopping 5’2”, and had a thick country twang in my voice. We’d messaged back and forth all summer, finally “making it official,” and we moved into our 10’x11’ dorm room in late August. I got there before she did, terrified out of my mind. I sobbed when my mom drove off and worried I’d made a huge mistake in leaving. I was so nervous about living with someone else, too. I grew up an only child – how was I going to share this tiny space in this foreign world, and with a stranger, no less? She arrived a day late. There was a denim sale at Old Navy that she found out about the day she was supposed to move in. Yes, really.
When she finally arrived, we muttered hellos and checked out each other’s Target dorm-line choices, and then came the anxiety-riddled task of nighttime arrangements. I know college is a time when many people wind up on top of and beneath strangers, but we’d signed a yearlong contract. We couldn’t sneak out the next morning and walk-of-shame it home if it went badly. (She’s rolling her eyes again reading this, I can feel it.) But truly, with us both being quite shy, you can imagine how awkward it was to be sleeping literally on top of someone I hardly knew, even just in bunk beds.
The next morning, we went to the dining hall together to get lunch, both pretending to be fine and smiling on the way. We got our trays and filled them with food that our nerves couldn’t stomach and sat down across from one another. When I reached for a napkin and spilled my water all over our trays, I was mortified, but she just burst out laughing. “Thank God that was you – I was so worried it’d be me that did it!”
And I think that was it.
That was when we knew.
Our first year was not typical. Our all-girl dorm was nicknamed the “Virgin Vault,” and was full of quiet, studious young women. We all met weekly to watch Grey’s Anatomy downstairs and we had a “Pajama-Jammy-Jam,” for God’s sake. But we had each other in room 232. Even though she took piano lessons in our common room and I took a magic class (both of our own free will, shamefully enough), we embraced each other’s dorkiness. We were trying to find our own paths. This journey, of course, continued throughout college and was full of embarrassments, failures, what-was-I-thinkings, and hardships. But we were always side by side, and that was enough to see us through. We quietly fell into our own routine, our own inside jokes. We learned how to turn the remote-less TV off with a broomstick so we didn’t have to get up at night after Family Guy. We spent Saturday mornings sleeping in and then rushing to grab brunch before the dining hall closed. We argued over Noel versus Ben (#teamnoelforever) when we watched Felicity because we had nothing better to do with our weekends, and I wouldn’t trade those lame memories for anything. We figured out how to overcome our homesickness and, eventually, how to find ourselves according to our own standards.
Upon returning for our second year, we’d come back much more equipped and confident. We had each other, after all. Plus, thankfully, we got a lot cooler. Hard to believe it got cooler than magic class, but somehow it did. We found our perfect organizations and our niche of amazing friends, no longer afraid of getting swallowed up by the masses. We came out of our shells together and danced like fools at parties, got matching piercings (We thought it was cool at the time. Still beats magic class.), and fell in love with our university.
We realized in the following years that you can get drunk off of hard cider, that when guys invite you back to ‘watch a movie’ that they don’t actually want to watch a movie, and that sometimes it’s great to just sit on campus and people-watch. We learned how to make new friends, that we were worth getting to know, and we figured out (sort of) how to interact with the opposite sex. We learned the ins and outs of making the most of our dining hall dollars and smuggled home over 500 pieces of fruit in our two years in the dorms. Yep, we kept tally like the real hard asses we are.
As the years passed all too quickly, we relaxed and had our share of fun, but we kept each other grounded. Our freshmen selves were still in there, after all. New people trickled in and out of our lives as we found the ones that would stick with us, but the two of us always remained. We both struggled with moving past the choppy waters of first loves, always finding the other waiting at the surface with the reminder to keep breathing. We excelled in our majors, blazing a path to our respective goals. She taught me to see beyond my own small bubble, to empathize with those who are different from me, and encouraged my grand gestures when I lost faith in myself. She never teased me when I had those awful bangs, and I humored her photojournalism projects that always made me the focus of people’s judging eyes (I once ran around campus with a giant foil fork. As in, three feet long. THREE FEET, PEOPLE.).
She never criticized or belittled me, and she accepted my quirks – including the endless pranks I played on her. She encouraged my crazy dreams and when the biggest was achieved, she was the first one I called. Her semester away in D.C. made me realize how valuable it is to live with your best friend. How having a support system built in should not be something one ever takes for granted. Who else would’ve line danced with me in the halls, binged the worst TV and movies – repeatedly – or kept my spirits up with her never-ending marveling at the grandness of the world? We are so very different, and yet our life lessons and crazy experiences are always somehow oddly parallel.
Emotionally, at our very core, we are the same. I have somehow been lucky enough to have found in a random roommate a soul that is made up of the same stuff as my own. To find someone who just “gets it,” to have an encourager who is always on your side, and to have unconditional love is to have found a soulmate. And because of mine, in that overwhelming, uncertain place, I was always at home.