I have this Post-It note above my desk that reads “be flexible and take a deep breath.” And it’s funny, because no matter how many times I catch a glimpse of this reminder stuck to my wall, I am surprised by it’s message each time. Learning how to put my big girl pants on and breathe deeper is the hardest thing I have had to do a very long time.
My last day in my hometown was one of the weirdest I will ever remember; I woke up early to go on a run before it hit 100 degrees at 11 am, ran into a cat halfway through who sat with me for five minutes as I told her all my anxieties about leaving. Liz Chan came and found me mid run, like truly hunted me down as I was running around Mckinney neighborhoods, and I laughed when I saw her convertible come around the corner and we gave each other words of affirmation as we each hugged our childhood best friend. And then she drove to the airport to go to college. I went to Panera, the place where I have an acute emotional attachment to after years of laughter and tears and yelling in booth 33, the place where I’ve paid for overpriced hospital food two times a week since junior year, the place where I’ve made friendships that got me through high school. Ran to Dunkin to drink the last of coffee I wouldn’t have to make myself before I officially became a broke college student, ate one of my mom’s cookies and had my friends remind me to breathe as I finished packing up my closet, shoved six pairs of shoes and two blankets into a mini-fridge in order to get as much out of the limited real estate in the minivan driving me to Lawrence, and almost forgot to pack my backpack. Ate The Last Supper of my childhood at the kitchen table with my family, talked about what my siblings and I were going to miss most from the magnificent relic of suburbia that is Mckinney as we cried and ate leftover pizza. Avoided having to say goodbye to my friends for two hours, danced in the Andy’s parking lot, screamed to Walking in the Wind as we drove down Eldorado looking at the crepe myrtles, and then said goodbye to a Jeep Cherokee and my best friends at the bottom of my driveway while mosquitos bit our ankles. And then I sat in the backyard and looked at my window, missing all of its plants in the sill, seemingly empty, and cried as I listened to RABi. Then I woke up the next morning and left.
I became suddenly aware that I will never have the same level of comfort and innocence that I had living in my childhood home. It was hard, I cried too much, but I am in Lawrence and I now love the midwest.
Time means nothing now. Time is nothing, nothing is real, and life is a game. Each day is both the longest and shortest I have ever had. I have to eat lunch at 11:40 am to avoid the crowd and need to pick up dinner around 5 pm or else I will have to eat a salad with only four pieces of romaine. I left home thinking that the freshman fifteen is natural and a part of life but that if I paid attention to it I could avoid it; four meals in Mrs. E’s dining hall proved that to be wrong. I now understand that my only options are the freshman fifteen or starvation. The first two nights I chose starvation, but after I couldn’t take a shower without needing to sit down I figured I should eat something besides rice cakes and peanut butter and maybe drink a couple more bottles of water.
I forgot how to be a student, but I am learning it all over again; I love that I get to learn about the relationship between feudalism and capitalism and America’s religious landscape, but at the same time have no idea where it is taking me. Talking to my sister on FaceTime is the most important part of my day, and we each fight back tears just about every time we have to hang up. I went for a run a couple of nights ago, and decided to run off campus to learn more of the city, and got about a mile in before I realized that 1) whoever said Kansas was flat had never been to Lawrence and 2) I AM IN KANSAS. I have texted many of my friends and we have all decided that this is the weirdest thing we have ever done. We left home and started our freshman year in the midst of a global pandemic. It is so hard, so so hard, but after listening to folklore so many times, I think she was right when she said we have to bleed in order to grow.