(Written in August 2020)
As the roads turned rural, I rolled the windows down and caught the stickiness of summer on my fingertips. Humidity filled my car while stray hairs stuck to my face, reminding me I was home, back in my mountains.
I moved out of my college apartment today, and the drive back was saturated in nostalgia. While I sat in the driver’s seat, the last bits and pieces of my college experience were packed into boxes behind me, neatly arranged to fit like a puzzle. I spent the two and a half hour drive listening to soft music and trying desperately to unpack the last four years of my life.
Outside my window, Charlotte flashed by and faded into my rearview mirror. All I could think about was my 17 year old self, pulling up to campus with a similar carload of belongings, but having no idea what joys and grief the next four years would bring.
This blog post is not the place to unravel every single life lesson I learned or the events I experienced while in college—I could do that, but for now I’d prefer to keep them to myself, safely tucked into my own special memory bank.
What I want to share however, is the singular thing that characterized college—the people. Like most, I went to college to get a degree and study something I was interested in. But looking back, those research papers and class discussions aren’t the things I’m going to recall when I’m sitting in my rocking chair and recounting stories to grandkids who probably won’t be listening anyway.
What I will recall, however, are the friends I made and the moments that had me laughing and crying at 2am. I’ll remember the songs my friends and I danced to in our apartment living room and the copious amounts of coffee that fueled us like gasoline. I’ll think back on drawn out conversations that brought me closer to people I hadn’t known existed just a few years prior.
College was full of love and lessons I will always cherish. While we’re told to go to college to get a degree, it’s no secret that you walk away with so much more than that. I learned how to write research papers and press releases and perform different styles of dance, yes—but I also learned how to become my own person, and none of that would have happened if it weren’t for all the people I met along the way.