Just before pulling away and watching everything I had known for the first 21 years of my life disappear in my rearview mirror, my Dad offered me some wisdom that though incomprehensible at the time, I knew someday would bring great clarity.
Hiding tears behind his wire-framed spectacles, he grasped my shoulders. I could see there was so much he wanted to say but couldn’t, I saw his struggle as he told me that in leaving, my life would change in many ways I would never imagine. Knowing that I had never been one who dealt well with change, he told me that the one inevitable thing in life was change, and thus, it should be something to embrace.
Leaving everything behind and coming to college as a transfer brought with it a unique experience. Loneliness, fear, excitement and the entire gamut of feelings were experienced in the same manner a freshman would. Yet, on one hand you’ve made it through the awkwardly exciting few years after high school, and on the other, just as you settle into college, your graduating.
Stuck between two places, I fought change and held onto home so tightly that I missed out on the present. Like many who leave family and friends back home, I struggled with the changes of leaving them behind. On weekends I would make the trip home in hopes of returning to the life I had left behind. Yet, life continued to change while I was gone.
Separating from a group of 10, I was the only one to leave home in pursuit of an education. Locked onto the past, I fought college life, but left home eachtime crushed as everything I had known was now foreign. What was once a life of endless nights and unity was now full-time jobs and the proverbial nose to the grindstone attitude.
Just as I had known the day I left, the time would come when my father’s weighted words would be fully understood. Lost in thought one afternoon as I relaxed in my front porch hammock, my thoughts were abruptly broken by the mailman handing me a silver-lined letter bearing my name.
As I slid my finger down the envelope, breaking its adhesive, I couldn’t help but wonder what news the letter contained. Slipping the small card out of its envelope, I found an invitation to an engagement party for a friend back home and his new fiance.
Staring at the embossed letters, I drifted into a state of reflection. It was early September and I could feel the sting of summer on my skin. I was leaving for college, leaving everything I knew in pursuit of an education as my father was again offering his closing words of wisdom.
I suddenly realized the significance of my father’s wisdom had never rang truer.
A new sense of understanding seemed to fall on me that afternoon. I remembered my parents telling me that the day would come when friends would start getting married, having children and buying homes.
But much like the thought of graduation that always seemed too distant to worry about, the thought of friends getting married, having children, buying homes and growing up also seemed too far away to concern me.
But it was that petite letter that evoked an introspective realization of my defiance to the realities of growing up. I was holding onto the past so tightly I couldn’t even see the changes taking place all around me.
I realized that the lives of every one of my friends who stayed home to pursue their careers instead of college seemed accelerated.
Whether it be the influence of our small old-world town or not, I realized everyone from back home was already working their 9-5’s, buying homes, talking about marriage and children, and ready to start their adult lives.
Like a weighted blow to the chest, I realized that in leaving for college, my life had taken a vastly different path. Not better or more right, just different. When they were consumed with reception plans and mortgage payments, I was cramming for midterms and worrying about what class to take.
It was then that I began to feel the societal pressures of the post-college expectations to be successful. The friends at home had abundant financial reserves, new shiny cars and were trying to start families. But me, I was broke, still drove my old trusty Toyota pick-up and wanted to experience the world before settling down.
Was I foolish for wanting to taste life on the run instead of buying real estate and starting my adult life?
College only seemed to further ignite my desires to chase my crazy dreams before settling down.
On top of feeling lost as to what the correct path should be, I was scared of the coming graduation and the looming reality of the “real world” lurking just beyond the cap and gown.
Being a student in your early 20s brings interesting dilemmas. While others back home have already established careers and are buying homes, we haven’t started our careers yet and are still broke.
Yet, despite the lack of funds, we still have the freedom to float through life sans mortgage payments, two-week vacations and immense responsibility.
I now find myself caught between two places yet again. Instead of holding onto the past for fear of the present, I now find myself struggling to cram in all the present for fear of the future.
With graduation on the horizon, I find that being in my early 20s, I’m at an interesting crossroad in my life. On one hand, I am scared of what the future will bring because school has been my life for as long as I can remember.
On the other hand, I feel the struggle between freely chasing my wild dreams and finding a career as quickly as possible.
Lost in the sea of decisions ahead of me, I have come to realize that, despite my doubts, there isn’t a wrong answer.
Instead, as I relax in my hammock enjoying the warm sunshine, I realize that when I reach that door to the “real world,” I will open it without fear.