It’s that time again. That time everyone dreads except rising college sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Back to school.
For years, the end of August meant the end of Summer. The end of freedom. The end of camp. The end of playing outside with friends until late at night without having to worry about homework. It wasn’t the end of warm weather we dreaded (although we would miss that too). It was going back to the classroom and starting to write papers and take tests again. It was getting back into our busy routine full of extra-curricular activities and eating dinner on the go. The only good thing about going ‘back to school’ was seeing our friends. However, we would much rather be on Summer break. This feeling stayed with us until the end of high school.
After I graduated high school, I had a little over 2 months left to live it up with friends before we had to say our goodbyes. We hung out literally every single night, never once staying in – even if we were working full-time (which I was… as a camp counselor… it still counts). I never got tired. None of us did.
When the end of August rolled around, it was all about trips to the Container Store and strolls down the many bedroom and storage isles in Target. I spent hours packing up my stuff at home and sorting through old belongings, but I mostly put this off as long as I possibly could because I didn’t want to admit I was leaving. Some of my friends were only going to college 20 minutes down the road in Boston. But I was going 6 hours away to Ithaca, New York. And I was scared.
I had gone to sleepaway camp before, but I never went away to a place for an extended amount of time where my parents would drop me off and wave goodbye until the holidays. Once they left, they wouldn’t be a quick car ride away if I needed them like they were when I was at camp. What freaked me out the most was the fact that from there on out, I would be living away from home for the majority of the year – every year – for possibly the rest of my life. I didn’t expect to be living at home after graduation (little did I know…), so I thought this was it. My childhood was over.
The night before I left for college I was a mess. My friends and I hung out to say our tearful goodbyes and didn’t leave each other until early in the morning. We also thought, ‘this was it.’ We acted as if our friendships might not make it through college and beyond. We acted like we were never going to see each other again until our high school reunion. After saying bye to my friends, I stayed up the entire night terrified for what was to come. I was scared that I was going to miss out on watching my brothers grow up and hanging out with friends since most were going to colleges near each other… and I was going ‘far, far away’ (not really compared to people who go across the country – but I thought so at the time).
I left early for Ithaca the next morning with my family and spent the entire six hours sleeping. I knew if I was awake, I would cry so I forced myself to sleep. Once we arrived my parents helped me set up my room and then left to go back home, leaving me in my new home (my little double dorm room) by myself. I was alone.
But I wasn’t. I was surrounded by people. People my age! My building had 12 floors of students… and we were connected to another building that had 12 floors of students. Not to mention all the other dorms nearby. I had never been surrounded by that many people in my life on a 24/7 basis. Because of the amount of people being pushed in my direction, it wasn’t hard to make friends. In fact, it was far too easy to easy to make friends. Everyone was looking for companionship and they certainly couldn’t show their true colors yet. Freshman year is, like, not the time to be a bitch.
As freshman, we walked around in herds whether we were headed towards campus, the dining hall, or an off campus party on a Saturday night. We had so many acquaintances and numbers in our phone that we didn’t know what to do with them. But despite the crazy-busy-awkward fun I was having, I still missed home at times during those first few months. I hadn’t made too many GOOD friends yet (as I said – acquaintances, acquaintances, acquaintances)… and I was having trouble balancing going out, doing work, and participating in extra curricular activities. I never actually did work in high school, nor did I ‘black out’ on Wednesdays before, so this was all very new to me. This could explain my extremely low GPA that semester… but would I change anything about it? No!
Four years later, I had grown up. I was an accomplished young woman with a badass resume (or so I thought) standing in her college house’s driveway crying refusing to leave. I had made countless life long friendships and memories and I wasn’t ready to give it all up. My life had become work, class, and cheerleading practice and after graduation, I would have none of that (until I found a job of course… but that’s another story for another time). Mostly, I knew that this was really it. I would never again have a reason to go back to my college town… and when I did, no one would be there unless they planned a trip at the same time. There would be no holidays dragging me back to Ithaca… no friends… no family. It was just a place I lived in for four years. And as for the people I met there, there would be no holidays or breaks made for reunions with them. I knew the majority of people I saw and/or spoke to on a regular basis in college, I would never see again.
This was a completely different goodbye than the one I said when leaving for college. Those friends I was so upset to leave, I would see again – during college and after college. Unless a high school friend’s family moves away, they will always call ‘home‘ the same place that you do. And they will always have a reason to go ‘home.’ But college was only a temporary home. Sure, some people stay in their college towns and cities… but not everyone does.
If you’re heading to college in the next couple of weeks, don’t be sad about leaving people. They will most likely be home when you’re home… and if you’re meant to be friends, you will be during college and after. For now, be excited about the people you’re going to meet and the friendships you are going to make. You are about to embark on a four year long journey that will (most likely) include some of the best years of your life. We (post-grads) are extremely jealous of you. In college, the end of August was my favorite time. I was reunited with friends. I was starting cheerleading practice. And I was free to do what I wanted without the stresses of money, work, and the real world. But now, all the end of August means is the end of warm weather and (jealously) watching others go back to school. We will probably never look forward to this time again. But you can. And you will. So enjoy it! In just four years, you’ll be laughing at the big deal you made about leaving for college… And crying because you have to leave the place you were scared of going just a few years ago.