I had set my mind on the idea of college a long time ago. It was my golden ticket: a one way trip out of nowhere. Not only did leaving home promise adventure, it promised opportunity. I’d have the chance to wipe my slate clean and create a masterpiece. Of course, everything has a price. My “fresh start” costed $25,000 more than my family had lying around. I spent my entire senior year in pursuit of scholarships. When that wasn’t enough, I scrounged for federal grants. Student loans were my last resort. In the end, I still needed money. Signing those loans was like twisting a key. I find solace in the theory that it takes money to make money. Nothing about college has been easy. Yet it’s the struggle that has made the reward taste so sweet. I’d do it all again just to revisit what it felt like to take in campus for the first time through teary eyes or what it felt like to swallow down the anticipation stuck in my throat as I opened the doors to my first lecture. College is everything I had dreamed of, and somehow still more. I had always known that it would finally be the place that would reveal to me what I was looking for. A lifetime of expectation couldn’t prepare me for exactly how much I was to find. My experiences are fresh on my mind— still fluttering in my chest—and I have chosen to share them with you.
Until the 7-day-countdown, it never quite registered in my heart that I was finally leaving home. The move had been long past due for me, in many ways. The first and foremost: my tiny hometown had only ever felt like a temporary stop in the grand scheme of my life. It was my home, and most of what I knew, but I’d always been drawn towards its borders—towards a horizon that promised more. The next reason: I was restrained and restless in the bubble of who I thought I was. I was happy, yes, but I was the content kind of happy. The type of happiness that comes after you embrace that you have no other choice. I was ready to find passion. Last but not least: I was ready to prove to myself that my strength and talents weren’t all due to the fact that I was a big fish in a little pond. There had to be more to me. I was raised on the creed of courage and character. I wasn’t born to blend in.
To offer a little background… The town that I call home boasts a population of a whopping 4,000 people. There are drastically more cattle than citizens. There are also more fields than trees. Locals would say that the land is so flat you could watch your dog run away for 2 weeks. I grew up on a farm located 17 miles outside of town, only accessed by dirt road. I had been driving pickups, wielding pocket knives, and wrestling cattle before I was old enough to sign my own name. Even if I didn’t choose to label myself as such, I was a certified country girl, and I couldn’t escape it if I tried. I loved my home, without a doubt. Yet I ran from it because it was only a part of my future, not the entirety.
I am now four months into college. Time continues to rush past in a euphoric blur. I’ve hit highs and lows—made friends and lost friends—got some really good grades and some really bad grades—spent nights surrounded by people and nights alone. I have been up close and personal with what self-love really is. I’ve learned how to fend for myself, all while helping others when I can. The memories are like tattoos on my heart, marking where I’ve been and how I’ve felt. I cherish them for how they've helped me grow. Each experience has granted me knowledge not only about the world, but about myself. College has made me wildly uncomfortable, and I love it. That’s life. You must first walk headlong into the unknown in order to truly get the most out of the world. If you take chances, you’re bound to be faced with both challenge and reward. What separates us are the decisions we make in response. We can either flourish or fail, and believe me or don’t, but the outcome is in our own hands.
I may lose my footing sometimes, but I am exactly where I want to be. I’m thriving—emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. I am only in the beginning of my long adventure, and there’s still much to come, but I have grounded myself in a steady anticipation for life, so I am awaiting it all with my eyes wide open. I invite you to be my shadow on this journey. Shaka, friends.