May 31, 2014: I woke up like every other morning in Albany. My window overlooked the pond and the weather was warm. It was the usual. For me, this was a daily occurrence that had become a routine from the moment I stepped foot on my college campus at 17-years-old.
It was a normal day in Albany.
And it was also the beginning of reality.
I walked down the hall of my apartment to find suitcases packed. Decorations were taken off the wall. No one was in the apartment but me.
I sat on the couch and contemplated how to feel, how to breathe, what to do now.
It was May 18th when myself alongside hundreds of fellow peers, completed our journey of undergraduate studies. For most of us, Albany was more than just a college. It was where we grew up.
It was an escape from all that we had left behind momentarily. It was our world. And we ran it.
I looked out the window to the home I knew so well. It was the place I had spent 4 years uncovering. From the hipster food places, to the trendy bars, from the local hiking parks, to the unusual gems that took all those years to finally understand.
Universities and colleges all over the world see some of the most beautiful and most disastrous moments of our lives. They witness heartbreak to depression, happiness to down-right intoxication.
But the beautiful part of what they witness is: change.
Change of heart, as we uncover the difference between pleasing other people versus pleasing ourselves. Change of thought, as we uncover our true likes, when we realize that much of what we had thought would be a promising career would limit our happiness. Change of soul, as we become the people that we never sought out to be.
We stood here, years ago, with no understanding or prediction of how we would end up. As if we were dropped into this world of college, no idea what the outcome would be. We waited patiently.
And within an instance, we woke up. And we finished.
We left our home. We left this reality.
June 2014: Home. I unpack my belongings. Place dresses and shirts on hangers; gently placing them into the closet. I sit down on the couch and glance around.
I was home. My home for my entire life where my parents raised me, where I lost my first tooth, and where I was picked up by my prom date. This was home for me. It had always been.
But this home lacked to witness the biggest change of my life. These walls didn’t witness those endless random nights where friends would kidnap me at 2 am to grab food and chat about how crazy last night was. Those walls didn’t acknowledge all those nights of tears, of uncertainty, of delusion. These walls did not witness influential heartbreaks, or broken friendships. They couldn’t possibly understand all those days of complete madness or simply sitting with some friends to catch the next episode of our favorite show.
So what do you do now?
You’ve changed. You didn’t realize it. All those years where life seemed to just flow and you looked at the same person each day in the mirror. You had no idea what was coming.
And then you go back home. And life comes into perspective. You understand that the person you once was is long gone and that you’ve inherited this new being that you had no idea you had.
Then reality hits. And all those issues you had left behind when you left away for college begin to return. Emotions and feelings that you thought were long gone, return in a flash and you are left there wondering, what now?
We face the uncertainty of unattainable jobs and lack of funds. We face the constant pressure of taking care of our families. We face the distance of relationships, those people we swore we would never lose and have been limited to texting or Instagram updates; we face the transition of having the world in our hands to feeling like the world is now on our shoulders.
We face everything we swore we wouldn’t feel in those years of escape.
The only difference from the person you are now and the person you were, is that those 4 years strengthened you to take on this life. Those walls, that home, those friends, those not-so friends, those boys, those girls, those professors, those bosses, those random strangers at parties, those football games, those lack of sleep nights, those sunny days, those snowy days, those depressing days, those “I’m too drunk to remember what happened that night” days, and those last moments you had at your home.
You were meant to experience this momentarily and now it’s time to fly.
So as the world comes crashing down, remember that you are this new being that has transformed into the peak of your vision. You have made this person, this 20 something-year-old who is eager to experience more that life has to offer.
And you’ll look back years from now and remember in the vastly distance what that home meant to you. What college gave you. How those 4 years in a complete different world with strangers, would eventually make you the person walking in those shoes today.