I really miss the luxury of having the first twenty-something years of my life planned out for me. I always did well in school and generally enjoyed being there. I had an inner drive to go above and beyond by taking advanced courses, especially ones that would transfer to a university. My parents did not go to college and I don't remember them really reinforcing that I needed to go to college, but I must have had good guidance from teachers along the way. I knew from an early age that I wanted post-secondary education and did everything I could to be ahead of the game when that time did come.
I was always busy in the church. Very few months would go by with me in a new quorum before I was called to a leadership position which I always took very seriously (what is that saying about all work and no play?). I remember being the Teacher's Quorum President and having the quorum advisor calling me the night of our weekly activity to say that he had not had time to get anything ready. I took it upon myself to get a structured activity ready. When he showed up and said that we were going to just go hang out (I think he wanted to just get some food and play some sport) I was visibly annoyed and ended up just going home (yes, I was one of those Mormons that annoy the hell out of me right now - self-righteous and uptight, even from a young age). I really procrastinated my final paperwork for my Eagle Scout award, but finished it in the end.
I had female friends that would drag me out of my house to do stuff. I did not date, per se, but I did end up taking someone to most, if not all, of the school dances during my junior and senior year. I had a best female friend that I hung out with a lot, which caused some to assume that we were dating, but I always said that I did not want a steady girlfriend before my mission. I really did like being around her, but there was never any draw to hold hands or kiss or anything. I had male friends as well but never seemed to really connect with the ones that I really admired.
Since I started kindergarten almost a year later than most of the kids with whom I graduated (my birthday was two weeks too late to start kindergarten the previous year - I was devastated that my friends from primary were going to school and I wasn't) I only had a few months after graduation before I left on my mission so I did not have to worry about making decisions about college right away. An in-state university had offered me a full-ride (plus money for books) academic scholarship without me even applying and they agreed to hold it for two years while I was on my mission. I did not have anything against the school but was not sure that was where I wanted to go and just did not want to make any decisions about it so I asked them to just hold it for me. I got BYU fever while on my mission. I had contemplated going there before my mission, but with the majority of Elders around me saying they were going to BYU I felt a strong desire to follow suit.
In the end, money ended up making the decision for me. My dear mother did most of the footwork (because I was trying to focus on being a missionary) of applying for me to attend BYU and two other schools besides the one that had offered me a scholarship. BYU offered me a 50% tuition reduction scholarship and I knew that the other in-state schools would match the full-ride scholarship I had previously been offered. I really wanted to join my comrades at BYU, but with a little encouraging from my mom I agreed that a full-ride scholarship was not something I wanted to give up. I also liked the fact that the school was a couple of hours away from my family - far enough to have my own independence, but close enough to visit or be visited by them without too much advanced planning.
After my mission, school and work kept me pretty busy. I did not really date at all during my first year at the university. The singles' ward I belonged to was made up primarily of people who were close to being dishonorably kicked out of the YSA program (i.e. turn 30) and cliques of people who had grown up together in the same town their entire lives and consequently did not make any effort to get to know the new-coming college-goers. I just did not really fit in there and kept to myself as much as possible. I would later learn the boundaries for wards that had younger college kids that had moved away from home to go to school.
I knew I was supposed to date (and hated when my parents would ask me about my dating life) so I dated enough to show that I was putting forth some effort. Almost without exception I would go on a date or two with a girl, not feel any real desire to go any further, and then wait a couple of months before making myself try again. I often enjoyed the idea of the date (trying to make it unique or creative) more than I enjoyed the actual date itself. There were only two girls that I took out more than a couple of times before dating the girl that is now my wife.
Marriage was next on my to-do list so I kept going forward as I was programmed to do . . . To be Continued . . .