Thursday, July 18, 2013

Athens, I Love You.

Athens. The word may be small but it has had a massive impact on my life.

As I enter my last night in this place, I'm finding it harder and harder to say goodbye. My time here will impact the rest of my life. I've had good times, stressful times, and terrible times - but I wouldn't change them for the world.

I moved to Athens in the beginning of August of 2011. I was entering my junior year of college but spent the first two years of my college career at home commuting to KSU. Being on my own was big deal. It was hard when they first left me there, but it was no time at all until I was loving it.

Moving to Athens also meant moving away from my dogs. I spent my entire life with those dogs. To be honest I missed them a little more than my parents. When classes started I noticed service dogs in training everywhere on campus. There were lots of stories about what they were about and how to get one, so one day mustered up the courage to ask someone with a puppy what the deal was. I'm pretty sure I signed up for it that night. I got the initial e-mail, then months later I got another informing me of a meeting that I was to attend. I attended the meeting and that was the first step towards my Bogie. Months of getting ready passed, and then the day came where I got the e-mail saying the puppies were coming! Growing up with 2 black labs, I indicated that would be my preference. When I opened the e-mail and saw I was getting a yellow lab, honestly I was a little bummed, but still excited. I'm so glad I got this yellow lab, or else I would have missed out on the most handsome and expressive dog I've ever seen. Pick up day came days after my 21st birthday. I liked to think of him as my birthday present from my late grandma.
He decided he didn't want to walk down the steps

B is like the bookends of my time here in Athens. In the beginning he opened new doors, new friendships, and he filled the void that was missing in my life. In the end he left me with so much joy, happiness, memories and dog fur.

In January 2012, I began my classes in the Grady College of Journalism. To be honest, I was a little terrified at first, probably because of Professor Hazinski, who can be pretty frightening when you don't know him. Lucky for me he liked B (he'd never admit it ;) ) so I was on his good side.
Grady was also when I was introduced the the people I will be friends with forever. The people that I had classes with are the same ones I'll likely meet again and again in the biz. I'm pretty lucky, because they're all pretty awesome.

Life wasn't terrible; I was learning new skills like budgeting my money between groceries, bills, and any extraneous spendings, and learning to deal with living with other people. At times it was a little stressful, but without hard times we don't appreciate the good times.

Summer rolled around I jetted off to London for a month, which was amazing.

August came around and I moved into a new place. This time, "the peach house on the corner" in a neighborhood full of colorful houses. I was in love with the neighborhood and still am. This is the place (aside from UGA, obvi) that has had the biggest impact on me.
The new semester had me pretty busy, but I made time to walk B every night. Since it was August/September, Georgia was sweltering, I made the decision to walk him in the evening after the sun had gone down so neither of us would have a heat stroke. One Friday evening we were walking when we passed a house with a bunch of people our age were outside; They invited us to hang out and I haven't stopped since.

Because of them (and Bogart since he was the reason we were out!) I have met so many new people (including my boyfriend), and had lots of experiences I likely wouldn't have had if it hadn't've been for them.

My schedule became pretty routine once the initial school starting thing settled down. Class Monday through Friday, walk B in the evenings, and spend the weekend with my neighbors and boyfriend, then repeat. Every now and then I'd have a meeting with B, or some project I needed to work on, but for the most part that was life.

I had mono during the Thanksgiving holiday, so that was no fun. I was still getting over it during finals but I trucked on through. Thankfully by Christmas I was better. Before school started back we threw a baby shower for my sister, then days later school started.

This semester was a little less time-consuming than the last, but boy was it busy. I had class Monday through Thursday. My Monday's and Wednesday's lasted from 9-6, where my classmates and I put out a live news broadcast. It was fun, but exhausting. I was fried by the end of those days and in no mood to do any Comm Law which was one of the classes I had on Tuesday's and Thursday's. But alas, it was a schedule I had to figure out and I eventually did.

A few weeks into the semester I got an e-mail from my advisor informing me that she had mis-advised me (3 times!!) and I was actually 5 credit hours short of graduating! I was furious! I ended up taking on an independent study that semester and today was my last day at my internship that finished up all the credits I was missing.

On Valentines Day my family welcomed the newest addition to our family, miss Emma Grayson Thompson. From that moment we were obsessed with her and that hasn't changed.

Family Photo! 
In April-ish, Boges and I got promoted to an "advanced group" where he would learn more advanced skills. This also meant his time with me was getting closer to an end. At our first advanced group meeting we finally met his brother. It was super sweet. A month later, we had a massive meeting where all the puppy raisers from Athens met up for one ginormous meeting. B's brother came over for a little play date beforehand. An hour later we were at the meeting. His brother's owner said to me "that dog looks a lot like B". It did. Almost identical except a little smaller. I couldn't take it, so I walked over to the owner and asked her the dog's birthday- lo and behold it was his sister! Of course we had to get a family picture.

May 9th and 10 was a big day - Graduation Day! Though I technically wouldn't be done until summer semester ends, I still walked-  and with my loyal companion by my side. I was so proud he was able to be there with me. He was there through my entire Grady journey, so it's only right that he graduated from there with me. When people asked me when he would be going up for training, I always said "I hope it's after graduation since he's been in all the Grady classes, so it's only right!"

I began my internship at the Banner Herald a week later. It started and ended very well. Not too long after I began that internship, things at my house got a little crazy. Long story short, a roommate was behind on rent, and it wasn't until the other roommate and I were less than 24 hours from being evicted that we were informed that she didn't have the funds to pay for that. So my other roommate and I had to split that and utility bills that the roommate also couldn't afford. This situation still isn't resolved, but hopefully it will be soon. Talk about stressful!!!! 

Hello and Goodbye
Then one day, I got the e-mail saying that the time had come for my puppy, and it was time for him to get his Masters in Service (as I like to say). I cried, and cried for a while after that. We made the most of the time we had left- we went home to say bye, I took him swimming, he got spoiled with treats, and he got lots, and lots, of love.

Then on July 6th, it was time to say goodbye. That was tough. I had spent days leading up to it crying, I had cried that day, but none of that compared to stepping into my house that night and him not being there. Saying I lost it would be a massive understatement. It hasn't been easy. I still cry, but I've been blessed to have a wonderful support system to keep my mind off of things. I'm still trying to figure out how to fill the void he once filled and the 68-pound one that came about from his absence. I'm learning who I am without my extra 4-legs, and that's hard. He truly was my absolute best friend.

And here I am now, my last full day in Athens. My already-broken-heart breaks, so how am I going to manage this? I don't want to go; I'm not ready to go. Of course I'll be back as much as I can, but it's different. Athens won't be my home anymore, rather it'll be another city my heart longs for.  This city made me who I am today; I grew and blossomed here. There's a reason everyone who comes to Athens falls in love with this place.

I know life has another exciting chapter awaiting me, but I just want to pause for a moment and take in right now. I think "blessed" would be the best way to sum up this journey. Yes, there have been ups and downs, but I'm a better and stronger person from them. I'm so thankful to have gone to such an amazing university, meet amazing people, and make amazing memories. I'll forever bleed red and black. I can't wait until I bring my children here for games, I just hope they fall in love with this charming city like I did.

Athens, this isn't goodbye - how about 'see ya later'? 
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