The summer after my sophomore year was pretty significant because it was the first time I had a full-time job working in a research lab. I started working in the genetics lab during the fall semester of sophomore year. With significant encouragement from my sister Becca, I contacted a few professors about the possibility of working with them and writing a proposal for an ORCA grant, a grant designed to support undergrads in research. I took an offer from Dr. J to work in his lab. I didn't really have time to get into the routine before Nauvoo, but when I came back, I found myself working in the lab eight hours a day. At a microscope. That's a lot of time at a microscope. I worked in the lab with one grad student. She was the only other girl. The other student employees were fourteen married men and one single guy. Fortunately, he acquired a girlfriend shortly thereafter, so I didn't get too much teasing about being set up with him.
This was the first year that I really plunged hard-core into my science classes. With several biology and chemistry classes, it was the first time that I had to not only schedule every half hour of the day in order to accomplish everything that needed to be done, but schedule every half hour with mind-challenging studying and learning, both in the lab and for class. It was my baptism by fire into the world of genetics and molecular biology and I ate it up.
In my apartment, I learned a lot more about leadership and friendship. We had an incredibly random assortment of girls, from the 18-year-old freshman whose friend bailed out on her so she was living off-campus by herself, to the UVSC super senior who had depression and was very socially inept, to the 27-year old fresh RM who was going to BYU for the nursing program and was dealing with the recent death of her father, to my sweet, sweet room roommate Karen, one of my best friends, to the token engaged girl who also studied ballet (who also happened to be the same Ashleigh who spent nights in the Nest the previous year). Then there was me. My nickname in the apartment was "Mom." I've had a lot of experience pulling reluctant kids together, so it wasn't too much of a stretch. With a little work (okay, a lot), we all became friends (some a little more tentative than others). I learned a lot about patience and encouragement on top of everything I learned about DNA and proteins.
Then, things changed abruptly at the semester again. One of my best friends from Nauvoo, Danielle, asked me to move in to the house where she was living with some friends, including Jenny and Kim, two other girls from Nauvoo. It was a hard decision to make. I knew I would love living in Danielle's house. But I also knew that I could do a lot of good if I continued living where I was. In the end, the best conclusion I could come to was that neither decision was necessarily the right choice, but my attitude about my decision would determine whether or not it was a good choice.
So, I moved to the DDI, and proceeded to have a wonderful semester. Danielle was a good friend before I lived with her, and by the time I moved out a the end of May, she was even better. In fact, we were good enough friends that she came out to visit me that summer in Minnesota.
In moving, I acquired two engaged roommates instead of the standard one. I suppose I've been pretty lucky though, because of all my engaged roommates, only one or two have had fiances that I wasn't friends with. In this case, both Kim and Jenny, other friends from Nauvoo, became affianced and we all had a grand time together with their men, especially since Kim and her fiance chose to celebrate their engagement by cooking a steak dinner for all of us.
I also learned a lot about relaxing and having fun and being myself. I finally signed up for the music minor that I'd been debating for three years. I loved the DDI so much that I stayed on an extra month before leaving for my internship that summer. That was the month of no sleep. Danielle and I stayed up late (Danielle's most common expression o' nights was "I hate bed!") and there were many mornings when the only thing that gave me enough self-discipline to get up was the knowledge that Danielle had class, and about half the time she needed some encouragement to get out of bed.
Danielle was studying piano performance at BYU and I had taken a few years of voice lessons, so many an evening was spent at the piano in the living room with Danielle playing and me singing, mostly songs from musicals. Danielle's favorite was "Show Me" from My Fair Lady because playing such a fast song gave her a rush.
I remember walking home from campus every day that last month and seeing all the beautiful flowering plants and smelling the spring air and knowing that fun times awaited me at home and saying a silent prayer of thanks for that one beautiful, happy month. I was nervous and excited for what lay ahead, and I was so very grateful for the memories that lined my heart as I left.