As of this past Thursday, it’s been exactly four years since I graduated from Kent State University. That’s insane! It still feels like yesterday.

It can’t possibly be a coincidence, then, that I had a nostalgic dream Friday morning about returning as a new student to my old dorm hall. It was mind-bogglingly vivid. There was a new Resident Assistant giving us lads on the 3rd floor our first-night pep talk, and people milling about in conversation. 

It wasn’t until I took a glance at the floor directory, where my name wasn’t listed, that I remembered that I’m no longer a student. I sadly admitted as such in the dream and woke up moments later.

What makes all of this even more scintillating is the waking vision I had before this dorm dream. See, I must’ve sipped too much tea last night, because both my bladder and dreaming mind weren’t happy with me! I abruptly woke up after my body demanded I make a run, and after having a creepy dream about finding spiders frozen in ice.

After waking up, I saw an image of the Virgin Mary, adorned in her classical blue cloak and holding a sword at her side. She was gazing forward with a look of steely determination. 

After my previous uplifting encounters with her, I know now that this was an indicator that she’d arrived to help me let go of the sadder parts of my collegiate past.

Turbulent Memories

I know there’s nothing wrong with cherishing your college memories. I’ll always be grateful for the bonds I’ve made there, and for the memories that I still hold dear! But I’ve struggled with all of the “what could’ve beens” that haunted me since I graduated four years ago.

Even with my undergrad degree, I’m still not where I want to be in life. Honestly, this was a major problem for my emotional wellbeing a couple of years ago. I felt stagnant, and had to fight off the irrational fear that I ultimately wasted my time and money. 

I know that I sure as heck didn’t waste anything. I need to let myself remember that frankly, I’ve always been a late bloomer. I didn’t come out until I was 18, for example. I’ve always gone at my own pace, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as Mom’s reminded me for good reason.

Woe unto me if I forget that I was in a constant survival mode as an undergrad student back then. Throughout all four years, I dealt with depression, varying traumas, and deep-seated fears about the future. I couldn’t focus on doing healing because my student life demanded my attention relentlessly.

Frankly, I didn’t have the “ideal college experience”. What is that, even? Well, whatever it is, I highly doubt it includes mental health issues and lingering existential dread. It’s a miracle I pulled through all of that. I’m grateful always for God and the vast support system I was lucky to have up there.

I’ve wished over and over again that things had been different back then, that my college experience hadn’t been riddled with that painful nonsense. But as it goes, I can’t rewind time and change the past. That, and I don’t ever want to relive those years after how perpetually exhausting that time was. College was not the best years of my life! That time hasn’t come yet, but I have a hopeful feeling that it’s coming soon.

A Mother’s Protection

I spent time today meditating on Mary’s unexpected appearance, and how it correlates to far I’ve come on my journey. The last four years have been like a separate “personal growth degree”. While I’m not exactly where I want to be, I’m so proud and thankful for the important progress I’ve made. I’ve busted through the last dregs of my major traumas, and I’ve let myself be fully honest about how I’m actually faring. It feels good to be honest about dealing with depression.

Once again, Mary has helped remind me to avoid the “tyranny of memories“, letting the past burden me down to the point of not seeing the goodness in the future. She’s God’s Handmaiden for a reason, and when it comes to any spiritual obstacle, she’s not to be trifled with. This whole thing brings back fond memories of the dream I had where she, alongside St. Michael the Archangel, ambushed an evil spirit that had tried to haunt me a few years prior. Mothers don’t tolerate villains trying to hurt their children, after all.

It also calls to mind the time she vanquished a different kind of foe. One Autumn evening, I dreamed that a nightmarish embodiment of the toxic masculinity I’d dealt with at college tried to chase me down. Well, that didn’t last long. Mary appeared and smote it with heavenly power, utterly obliterating it. Momma said knock you out!

Ave Maria, gratia plena.