by Stephanie Burgis
This bead marks the moment you told Tom Merchant (high on your first-ever vodka shots and the teeth-jittering adrenaline of being out--even just as part of a group--with Tom Merchant, the most brilliant, amazing guy you'd ever met) that you couldn't care less about your practical engineering major, that thing that your parents were both so proud of. No, you declared (slamming down your fourth shot), you were going to be an artist instead!
Tom looked at you with real interest in his eyes for the first time ever, and you changed your major the next day, hung-over and scared but bone-deep determined to follow through and be the girl who could impress him. Still, your hands shook as you signed the forms, and you couldn't bring yourself to tell your parents for over four months.
By then, you and Tom had unofficially moved in together, you and him jamming all your clothes and books together into your "single" dorm room. (That's the next bead on the necklace.) You were shaking again when you hung up from the phone call with your parents that night, the one where you admitted everything, but he hugged you and he told you you were amazingly brave for standing up against fascist authority. Who cared what they thought, after that?
You didn't go home for Christmas that year, for the first time ever. Instead, you and Tom got a ride from one of his friends to Chicago. You curled up in a blanket on their floor on Christmas Eve while Tom sat up smoking pot and debating politics for hours, so smart and articulate and vivid and funny, you could barely believe you really got to be there watching him, up close.
You told yourself you'd never been so happy in your life.