This entry originally appeared on my disability blog, I hate stairs.

As mi hermano prepares to graduate in May with a Master in Spanish, I got the chance to visit him on campus this weekend in order to bring home some of his stuff. He lives in the very on-campus apartment that I first called home in August 2003. In fact, counting Matt’s last two years there, Apt. 73 has been in the Watson family for eight years.

This past Saturday night, I spent what was most likely the last time I will ever spend the night in that apartment, or even on campus. Although I am going back Wednesday to see Congressman Ron Paul speak, my time spent on the campus of Mississippi State University is about to come to an end.

Coming home in 2009 was refreshing at first. No classes. No homework. No exams. But soon, a host of harsh realities began setting in.

My disability was worse. I wasn’t finding employment. I was spending more time in the house. I had people that I had to consider when making decisions. Simply put, I had less freedom.

On campus, I was free. I could leave my apartment nearly at will and travel on the excellent sidewalk system to various places of interest on campus. Coffee at the student union? Done. Spontaneous trip to the book store? Done. Walk around the Drill Field? Well, you know… roll. Done. Go to bed early? Done. Stay up late? Done. Go to a club meeting without needing to arrange transportation? Done. I could do what I wanted. Thanks to all the supports in place, there was a time in my life when I could focus on things that everyone else focused on. It wasn’t all about survival.

I matured so much in my six years in college. In high school, I had few friends my age. I didn’t fit in. At Mississippi State, I met so many people. I found out that I had things in common with people and that my disability wasn’t necessarily a dealbreaker for friendships. For the first time in my life, I was also surrounded by other people with disabilities on a day to day basis. I became great friends with many of them. We did things. And we didn’t worry so much about the logistics.

Two years later, I’m at home. I have no friends here my age. I can’t go and come as I please without significant logistical planning. I haven’t found a job. I’m no longer surrounded by single ladies my age (also see previous sentence). And while my life is actually pretty great considering that everyone in America has a pretty sweet life, I realize that some of the best years of my life are over. And it’s a bit sad.

Mississippi State University, I miss you.