It started with underwear. I was getting ready for work, rummaging through my drawers, frantically searching for a clean pair. Midway through my search, I spied my full laundry bag and realized that I wasn’t going to get anywhere; I was officially out of clean underwear. My mind immediately turned to the obvious solution, I can borrow a pair! For the past four years, this has been my reality. When living with 80 some other women, almost all necessities are easily accessible. Shoes, hair dryers, textbooks and yes, even underwear, often require only a simple trip down the hallway.
As immediately as this thought entered my head, I realized it wasn’t possible. My best friends who I’d lived with for the past 4 years weren’t right down the hall ready to supply me with the proper undergarments. I’d graduated.
I suppose I’d known this fact for several months. The big ceremony, the motor board and the tears as I drove away from the place I’d grown to call home had all clued me into the significance of this transition.
However, it didn’t really hit me till that moment standing in the middle of my room with no underwear. As I felt this realization rush over me, I became even more panicked.
The memories I’d made over the past four years flooded my mind. I thought not just of the underwear I could no longer borrow but of all the millions of things that had changed. All the events big and small that were no longer and would never again be a part of my daily life. Never again would I take in the beauty of fall in New England as I walked to my early morning class, sip wine out of a coffee mug in my best friend’s room, walk to brunch in my pajamas or lay out in the quad on the first day of Spring.
These moments took on a beautiful and hazy glow as I grieved the fact that I was no longer at my wonderful and supportive small liberal arts college. Instead, I was 2 months into my new life on a continent I’d never before stepped foot on. My days were filled with meeting people, figuring out my new job and the myriad of challenges that come with living in a country where you don’t speak the language. On any given day, I oscillated between feeling enthralled and overjoyed to lonely and frustrated.
At that particular moment, I felt nothing but deep despair. The emotions and questions that had been swirling around my head hit a crescendo. I couldn’t seem to remember why I’d ever thought this was a good idea and everything comfortable and familiar felt unbearably far away. I missed the predictability and sense of surety with which I’d come to navigate my life. I’d had the support of an entire college, a close knit group of friends and my family. In China, I felt as though I had no one but myself.
However, the more I thought of and missed these comforts, the more I realized that while physically far away, this supportive network was still with me. It was Smith College that helped me develop the courage to take these scary steps post graduation. It was these friends who responded to my teary e-mails and Skype calls with words of encouragement and wisdom.
As I reminded myself of this, I began to calm down. Leaving the familiar is never easy. However, we must not allow fear to rule our lives. I comforted myself with this fact as I did one last sweep of my room. I found my very last pair of underwear tucked in the corner of a still unpacked suitcase. I got myself dressed and walked out the door ready to face the day.
Article by: Astrid Adam