Tag Archives: freshman

Even when we face the ocean, a wave might still knock us down.

I am playing Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye To You” on repeat, trying to conjure up a long-forgotten feeling.

me and kate

I am barely fifteen. Sure that the world is ending; running from the only family who ever accepted me entirely without question. I look to my best friend in the world: a skinny 10-year-old girl with a whole life hiding behind her bloodshot eyes. She struggles to breathe and I pull her close, sure that I can bridge a five-year gap with one embrace. Sure that I can transfer years of knowledge to her.

It doesn’t work and my mother pulls me away.

This is what I wanted, I remind myself. I wanted to run away.

Cut to present day. Wednesday night. I drown out the deadlines and mental notes scrolling through my head. I’ve been on campus for more than 12 hours — just another normal day.

I run up the stairs to my bedroom with a huge smile plastered on my face.

“I’m sad,” I tell my roommate. I don’t feel sad.

But seconds later, I’m back in that birthday party room at the gym, the cold tile floor burning beneath my bare feet.

“It’s just not fair,” I begin, my breath growing ragged with each word falling carelessly at my feet. I look down, trying to compose myself. “I always have to say goodbye more than everyone else.”

My roommate tries to interject, but I ignore her.

“I feel like I just graduated high school,” I continue. “I have to do this every three years?”

And then, the one truth I hold deep inside slips out. The one I only ever hint at.

“It’s not fair because it takes me so long to make friends. And now they’re graduating.”

Since I began college, goodbye has been a word ushered far more than hello.

I’m standing in my best friend’s front yard as she drives away in a bright yellow Penske truck on a sunny August morning. Headed straight for Florida.

I’m sitting in the backseat of my dad’s car as my friends wave in my driveway at 7 a.m. Surrounded on all sides by dorm necessities that suffocate me.

Walking back to my dorm room as that silver Mitsubishi Eclipse crests a hill on a chilly Sunday morning in February. The wet tears already stinging my face as the rest of the freshman class rouses itself from bed.

I’m hugging myself tightly on my roommate’s bed as I struggle to breathe. About to reach for my phone and retract the decision to break up with my boyfriend.

And now, standing in that same doorway, angry with the way goodbye falls quietly upon the world. The way it rises up to meet the hello’s and trumps them like a wave that crashes on me when my back is turned.

There may never be any redeeming quality in the word goodbye. There is nothing good about goodbye. Perhaps it should be renamed ‘badbye.’ At least then, we might know what we’re getting into.

me and emily

But now, as the weeks of the semester wind down, I am letting myself care about the people who leave me behind. Letting myself care about the friends I’ve made. I’m letting goodbye become a regularity. Because it is. Because there is no other option.

We can stand facing the vast ocean for a lifetime, but the minute we turn our backs might be the exact minute the wave builds, growing stronger as it smacks us full force. And then we’re on our knees, kissing the sand and drinking salt water.

Such is life. Years of preparation that take only seconds to be knocked down. The beauty, though, is the way we pull ourselves up so easily. Because sand tastes bitter and brushes against our sunburned lips, but it takes only a few seconds to right ourselves and face forward again, prepared for another wave.

And sometimes, even when we face the ocean, we still get knocked down.

Three weeks is too long, but four years isn't long enough.

day 15 – the person you miss the most

Dear Casey,

It’s occurred to me that in a little over a year, I’ll be done college. Done. I’ll pack up my clothes, my textbooks, my TV. My whole life will be wrapped up into a couple of boxes and packed away into my car. And I’ll ride down I-81 for possibly the last time.

It’s an odd feeling, knowing it’s far away but not too far. When you’re a freshman in high school, you don’t dwell on graduation. It’s the same with college. I just kind of assumed I’d go from living at home for 18 years to living in Harrisonburg just as long.

Last year, I probably would have jumped at the opportunity to graduate early. But after that, I realized it’s possible to let yourself enjoy college.

The one thing that hasn’t changed in three years is your ability to flip expertly between football games all Sunday long. Every week for an entire fall season. It’s probably the one thing I miss the most when I’m home.

I miss us spending hours downstairs, half-watching, half-procrastinating while Sam tells us she wants to marry a black football player. I miss going to Kline’s at 11 am because the flavor of the week is Cake Batter. Even though I can’t stomach ice cream that early, it’s worth taking a ride at least. I miss making dinner based on who was playing the 4 o’clock game and whether or not it went into overtime.

That’s why I’ll spend the next three semesters collecting memories, saving them up for a day when I’m living in the cold city that you so adamantly insist I belong in.

When I was a freshman on move-in day, I had a mix of excitement and anxiety running through me. In one fell swoop, I might turn back around and drive back to PA, back to my boyfriend, my easy life. But after the move-in crew came to help me check me in, they asked my name.

“Your roommate’s been waiting for you to get here,” they said. “She’s so excited to meet you.”

And you were. Practically in the hallway waiting for me. I should’ve known then that everything would be alright. Even without meeting you, I had at least one friend.

And I have definitely not doubted that in the last three years. So thank you. For being my first friend and for giving me a million little moments to return to in the spring.