On August 22nd, 2013, at around 10am, my life turned into a movie cliché. I guess you could say that it was the kind of day where “one door closed and another one opened.”
The day started out as my days normally do, as most “movie days” do. I woke up at the sound of my piercing alarm and moaned, turned over, covered my eyes with my floral comforter, and tried to go back to sleep for five more minutes. Just FIVE MORE MINUTES. Then, all of the sudden, something in my brain clicked and my synapses began to fire. I remembered what day it was as my eyes adjusted to my empty shell of a bedroom. It was “College Move-In Day.”
I had done everything that I could do to prepare for this day. I took deep, calming breaths like a pregnant woman in Lamaze class. I tried to visualize what college would be like. I even pretended like nothing special was happening. “La, la, la, la, la. Nothing special happening here,” had become my summertime mantra. But, nothing could have prepared me for the sharp pain that I felt in my gut when I woke up that morning. The tiny butterflies in my abdomen had become killer wasps.
It was time to take the plunge, to move away from home. To leave the family that double as my best friends. To leave the room that sheltered me from bullies, evil teachers, first day of school jitters, prom, and every other adolescent nightmare that I could dream up.
Once I got over the shock of the sunlight that signified both an ending and beginning, I stumbled out of bed. I looked in the rusty white mirror on my closet door, tried to smile, and, instantly, burst into tears.
Through my salty facial waterfall, I managed to get dressed, brush my teeth, and pack my remaining items: hairbrush, the dream catcher I’ve had since I was three, and the pajamas that I wore the night before. Seeing the silk pajama bottoms I’ve had since eighth grade, and my brother’s oversized t-shirt end up in my fake-looking, new suitcase started a whole new wave of tears. I could not believe that this was happening.
My family came downstairs to pack the rest of my things. We floated past each other like sleep-deprived ghosts. Apparently, the feeling was mutual.
While everyone else was keeping busy, I shuffled upstairs to say goodbye to my pets. I walked up to my German shepherd, Mufasa, and stared into his chocolate brown eyes. Then, I proceeded to sob into his rough fur for a good five minutes because I realized that he would no longer be there to protect me at college.
Upon hearing my cries, my cat came to investigate. This was going to be the hardest part. My cat, Jiminy, came to me as a Christmas present in 2012. He came to me during one of the hardest times in my life, when my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety were at an all-time high. With Jiminy in my life, my pain was eased. He stayed with me, every night, as I went through inexplicable mental struggles. He talked to me in soft meows each and every day.
I could not contain myself. I slumped down on the hardwood floor and released all of my sorrow in painful cries. I must have sounded like some sort of mutated, dying animal. What can I say? I am VERY sensitive when it comes to my pets.
After I ran out of tears, I took my rightful place in the front passenger seat of our van. By the time we pulled out of the driveway, my body had replenished itself and was ready for a new round of sobbing. I could not look back. I could not. There were tears anyway, and plenty of them.
We drove for an hour, but it flew by. It flew by because I found an excuse to cry at every turn. There was a Katy Perry song on the radio — tears. I saw a butterfly — tears. I could hear my belongings moving around in the trunk — tears. I have never cried so much in my entire life. It was as if my body had been saving up all of my sadness for this very occasion.
When we arrived at my college dormitory, it was like arriving to battle, but without any formal training or ammunition. We arranged ourselves in a sloppy formation, like wannabe soldiers waiting for “the signal.” We put on brave faces; we were ready to complete the task at hand. To focus on anything but “the big change.”
What happened next was a constant blur of motion. We checked in, unpacked, cleaned up, cleaned up some more, looked around, found something to pick up, and. . .all of the sudden, everything stopped. There was nothing more to do, nothing more to fix. My shabby, vintage-looking (which is a nice way of putting it) dorm room was as good as it was going to get.
Without even saying a word, we made our way outside. We hugged, we cried, and we laughed (I swear, it felt so goddamn cliché). We were in a sea of unpacking and crying parents, but it felt like we were the only ones in the world. My mom and sister got in the van and I could feel their sadness through the gears, metal, and glass that separated us.
My brother insisted that he walk me back to my room, which he did. We hugged and I could feel that he was beginning to cry, which, normally, would have made me cry. But, this time felt different. It felt right to be strong for someone else for a change because, deep down, I knew that it was time to be strong for myself.
My brother left me alone in my room. I could have left and watched them drive away. I could have called them and begged them to retrieve me. I could have let myself feel lost, but I didn’t. Trust me, I wanted to, but I didn’t.
Instead, I walked slowly toward the only window in my room. I opened it and breathed in the fresh air. It filled my lungs differently than the air from home did. This new air had a certain weight to it. I let it settle into my lungs as I watched strangers walk on the pavement beneath my window. I felt connected to them, to this new place.
Yet, I could still feel something tugging at me. It wasn’t a physical tug, or even a mental one. It was a familiar feeling and it came from the heart. It was kind of painful, but in this oddly reassuring way.
Later, I realized that it was a tug that would always be there. It was the tug that comes from feeling connected to something greater than a physical location labeled “home.” It was the connection that I felt with my family, even as they drove away, that let me know that a piece of me would always be home. A piece of me would always be home as long as they were there.
And, that, my friends, is my sappy — but, all too real — cliché movie ending.
Anna Gragert is a student, passionate writer, avid reader, cat lover, and Audrey Hepburn enthusiast. She has written for Hello Giggles, Thought Catalog, Hope Inside Love, White Ash Literary Magazine and The Horror Writers Association’s Horror Poetry Showcase. Anna also has a photo blog, which you can find here. Follow Anna on Twitter here.
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