As senior year of high school rolled around, the one question every future college student pondered was, "What if?"
Do you ever get stuck wondering, "What if?"
What if I go to school 511 miles away?
What if I stay here?
What happens if I leave everything behind?
Will I be able to start over again?
All these questions were the very things I wondered every day in the fall of my senior year. I had only one big move in my entire life, and that was in my early childhood. Flash forward 12 years, and the college opportunities ahead were endless... I could apply anywhere, get accepted and go anywhere I wanted. No more county lines, zip codes or school districts would serve as a boundary anymore. So I asked myself, "What will I do?"
I applied to seven schools, four of them out of state and the closest one three hours away. Throughout high school, I watched old friends move to new places and start a new life in a new school, make a new identity for themselves and watched them thrive. I was secretly envious while I was stuck in the same exact school with the same exact people from 1st grade to senior year.
When it was finally my turn to pick colleges, I knew I had to start over. I used to dream about my parents telling me we were moving, walking into a new school with much friendlier people and embracing a fresh atmosphere...Until the alarm rang on Monday morning to wake me up from an alternate reality my heart wanted so badly. Every time, after realizing it was only a "What if life was different?" dream, I used to sit in my bed for several minutes and almost cry from how sad I was to return to the place that hurt me so much.
At last, 2017 arrived and before I knew it, I committed and visited my future home for the first time. And when we came, I felt like a weight was lifted off my chest, like I could finally breathe again and see the light at the end of this seemingly never-ending tunnel.
But oh my, was the road to recovery difficult. The choice to move away to attend college out of state is not a spur of the moment decision. It required us to sit down as a family and have serious talks.
Being an out of state student means that I can't go home on the weekends as I please. My parents can't take a day trip up to take care of me if I get sick, which means I had to learn how to take care of myself in order to stay healthy. I took all the financial, physical and emotional responsibilities upon myself. Trying to balance a social life, enough sleep, healthy eating habits and managing academic stress along with homesickness is far from easy.
Part of living 511 miles away means that I have to navigate the headache of very long and treacherous bus rides home, dedicating two full days of my breaks to the 8-hour drive to and from campus and cutting time away that could be spent at home. When I first arrived in Athens, I was in tears by the end of the first week. I was homesick, scared and unsure if I could handle the enormous task of not leaving Ohio for 3 months, getting a visit from mom and dad once every month (or two) and making friends with people I've never seen before in my life.
I went from having nothing going for me here, to turning it around and making it so I now have everything going for me here: my friends, my social life, my school, my new home, my new life. I had to struggle with my raging insecurities by myself and learn how to step outside the safe bubble I lived in for so long, and sometimes that meant feeling like a fish out of water in a place where everyone seemed to know each other, someone's parent, sibling, cousin, grandparent, aunt or uncle went here and now they're a legacy.
The first semester was an uphill battle of managing travel costs home, out of state tuition, adjusting to the rigor of my major and learning to accept my first ever F in a class.
But if I hadn't chosen Ohio University and decided to play it safe, to go to a local college, come home on the weekends and stick with my previous classmates in a place I knew inside and out, I would have been left wondering, "What if?"
What if I did take that leap of faith and move far away?
Would things be different? Would I be happier?
Would I have found a new home?
The questions circling around in my head would never leave me alone. But every tear, every mishap and every heartbreak has only helped to shape me into the strong, independent woman I am today because I took that jump and instead of giving reasons why it wouldn't work, I made reasons why it would.
So to any high school senior thinking about moving hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home to go to college, remember that it is a very serious decision and it is not to be taken lightly. However, if you choose to do so, I promise you it'll be the adventure of a lifetime. Because "If we were meant to stay in one place, we'd have roots instead of feet..." - Rachel Wolchin
And if you take away one thing from this today, remember this: "It's better to cross the line and suffer the consequences than to just stare at that line for the rest of your life."