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The first step is to leave home and go away to college.

The second is to isolate yourself as much as possible on campus.

You must take walks by yourself—you must be the cat who walks alone. You must learn to enjoy it even as you hate it. You must revel in your freedom and independence even as you wish you weren’t single.

You must wonder why you want companionship so much. You must wonder how much longer you must starve yourself before the ache goes away inside. You must learn to talk to Jesus more, knowing that unless you give yourself completely to Him you will turn to other things instead.

You must observe the devastation to the forest that winter. You will see saplings to ancient oaks split apart like kindling. This is the result of the below-temperatures that are so rare in Washington. You must wonder how long the trees endured before they snapped.

You will wonder if they had not been so sappy, perhaps would they not been broken. You will wonder if it hurt the trees, and you will wonder if you are the dryad of one of those trees.

You will wander past a window on your faery walk. You will look within the window—from the outside—only to see a shadowy reflection of yourself.

You will see deep grey eyes staring back at you, a wild mess of brown hair, clothes that say, I’m not fashionable and I don’t care. You will wonder if he will like you when he comes. You will not hear an answer to this unspoken question, except the silence of a wintry evening.

You must learn to taste loneliness in your mouth. It will be a sickly-sweet taste, flooding through you until there is not a single part of your being that it has not consumed. You will wonder why you even care whether or not you are lonely.

You will think that perhaps if you didn’t care about it then you wouldn’t feel so empty.

You will wonder how long this will last, you will wonder if you will stop feeling like this once you finish college and go home again. You will wonder what on earth you will do after college. You will turn away from the window and try to stop wondering and asking questions.

You will continue your walk, just trying to put one foot in front of the other. The silence surrounding you will be complete. Perhaps just let yourself freeze to death on that walk and remain in that state of being until the spring thaw begins.

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