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Yesterday I posted about my attempts to attend college from 2001 until the beginning of 2003. Today I’ll try to get through the end of 2004.

So I began attending CLC in the spring of 2003. I still wanted to go to the U in the fall, and I was making plans with my should-of-been dorm mate to live off campus. Things were going fine, not really trying to hard in any of my classes, skating by with B’s. You know, taking it easy. Then in March, over spring break, I met a local high school senior named Michelle Kienholz. We hit it off immediately.

Going back a bit, throughout high school and afterwards, I never had a serious girlfriend. In high school I was mostly afraid of everything having to do with relationships with the opposite sex. As soon as I felt any sort of friendship might turn into something more I would almost immediately lock up, or my personality would change, or I would just plain avoid talking or talking alone with that person. I can’t explain it, but looking back it was quite pathetic. I ‘escaped’ high school without anything resembling a real date. Once I got back from Basic I did go on occasional dates, although the girls one meets in manufacturing and farming jobs are not the cream of any crop.

Fast forward to 2003, and suddenly there is this girl who I like and get along with very well. What’s a 19-year old guy with almost no previous relationship experience to do? Go too fast. And that is exactly what happened. Soon we were talking of moving in together, the future, how many kids we wanted (!!!) Moving to the cities and the U of M was long forgotten. I paid my friend lip service that, yes, I was still coming down but deep down I knew I wouldn’t. I had a lot of fun that spring and early summer, but by the end of summer I started getting burned out. I tried to change some things, slow down a bit, but by that time it was too late: In August I found out that she was pregnant.

Things fell apart a few times between us that fall, but by the end of fall semester we were still together and mostly acting like nothing was different. I still lived with friends, she still lived with her parents, and we both attended CLC. My grades struggled a bit, as they dropped from A’s and B’s spring semester to B’s and C’s fall semester. At this point I had no long term goals. How could I? My son was due that Spring, and I had no idea what would happen. I planned to go to Saint Cloud State University in the Fall, but I had no idea what my situation with Michelle would be. The U was no longer even on my radar.

That Spring of 2004 everything really fell apart. We broke up, seemingly for good, in January and classes held little interest for me. I coasted along until April, when Ethan Douglas Paulsen was born. After that what little attention I did pay to classes completely evaporated. I finished the semester with 3 D’s and a couple dropped courses. My cumulative GPA was a lowly 2.5.

Things looked up a little after Ethan’s birth. Michelle and I began to make inroads towards each other and by June we probably could be considered ‘dating’ again. One other notable event occurred that Spring: the day before my sons birth I was put on ‘Alert’ status to deploy to Operation Iraqi Freedom. This meant that an upcoming deployment was likely, if not certain.

The summer of 2004 passed fairly easily. Michelle and I talked somewhat about getting married, but had no solid plans. I was fairly certain I was going to get deployed in the Fall, so I had no school plans. Then on July 31 came the official deployment order: I would be deployed on September 10th. At that time I knew I would get married, for better or for worse. I felt obligated to care for her and I felt I could best do that being married. On August 12th, 2004, we were married by a Justice of the Peace. Then on September 10th I deployed to Fort McCoy, WI, and then later in November to Fort Benning, GA, both for training. I came home for Christmas and New Years, but I was called back to Benning early on the 29th of December. On December 31, I landed in Kuwait.