It took three hours to drive to college. I left while the sun was setting. I listened to Paramore and Demi Lovato for the first couple of hours and Hamilton for the final one. It took a while to find a parking space, but soon enough I was riding the elevator up thirteen floors to my apartment. I didn’t have time to finish finding my key when Amanda pulled in the door.
“Brooke!” she screamed my name and hugged me despite the seven bags I was carrying on each shoulder.
That’s the exact moment I realize how much I missed this place.
My first arrival to college, back in August, wasn’t as joyous as my second. The first time was terrifying. I was miserable the night before I left for too many reasons. I had an idea of how college was supposed to go. In my head, it was one way; Everyone I cared about would be with me the day I left, hug me goodbye, and promise to call and write me in every spare moment. We’d laugh and cry at the same time. I wanted to know how much I was cared about, and I wanted to show how much I cared.
It didn’t happen that way.
I spent the night before I left locked in the bathroom, crying my eyes out. Everything was crumbling in front of me, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it.
I went to my bed that night, red-eyed and blue. As silly as it was, I thought about the part in Lost when Jack told Kate that he lets himself feel fear for five seconds, and then he pushes on. I created my own version of that. I let myself feel sad for a few more minutes, then I moved on.
You had your time to cry. Now it’s time to put the past behind you. You can be whomever you want at college. You are going to move on, and you are going to be happy.
I didn’t let myself think about how sad I was the rest of the night. I thought about who I wanted to become. With everything changing, I didn’t have any expectations to meet. I could be whomever I wanted three hours from home.
The day I went to college was hard, too. Car issues, family issues, and the idea of leaving behind everything I had ever known wasn’t easy. It felt weird to combine my items in a room with some girl I barely knew who would sleep under my top bunk every night for the next year. We finished, and my family left. It was my turn to choose what happened next.
Life doesn’t always deal you the best cards, but what you do with those cards is up to you. I didn’t have to move on. I could have stayed in the past, doubted my decisions, held on to what I should have let go of and let go of what I should have held on to, and I still would have gotten through college. I’m happy I didn’t, though. I’m happy I found the strength, quiet in me for so many years, to become who I wanted to be, to change for the better.
You, too, have the strength to choose the kind of life you want to live. Life’s not easy, and it’s not always how you imagine it, but you can be who you want to be. Circumstances can suck, but strength is real. Hope is real.
You can’t choose the life you want. You can choose the best version of the life you have.