"I got in!"
It seemed to be such a relief at the time getting that letter in the mail, the big one though, not the small one. No one wants the small letter. The small letter is usually the one that doesn't come accustomed with your big new folder filled with 'Dorm life,' 'College must haves,' and 'Student Organizations' pamphlets. But I wasn't worried about what that envelope had inside because I got the big letter. I already knew.
"We knew you could do it, Honey. We already opened it before you got home!" said my overexcited mother who, by the way, was thrilled I wanted to go to a university only forty-five minutes from my house. Her and my dad had done everything they could think of to force me to come to the conclusion that the University of South Florida was the ONLY choice for me. Luckily for them, this school did have one of the best medical programs in the state. But, between us, I let them think the close proximity from home was the deciding factor.
In my own defense though, I was a nerd.
I was the first one of all my friends to get accepted into college, mid-October, before I was even 18. This happened primarily because I was the only friend who staked out university websites and completed the applications the day they opened. Most of my friends were still debating on the Navy versus working their way up in Publix, the local grocery chain that they "swear it's going to be huge one day," and others were still waiting on their big letters in the mail. None of them could believe I was about to commit to possibly the next four years of my life in Tampa.
I wasn't a fan of high school hence the nerd comment I mentioned prior. Instead I joined a program with my friend Kim that allowed us to be full time students at the state college down the road. This was perfect for us. It gave us a head start on school and Kim got an in with the volleyball team, which she will eventually become a part of. She doesn't know that yet. We both had the opportunity to excel in our education without dealing with all the dramas of high school.
The awesome part about this program was that it allowed us to be far far away from the everyday happenings of Hudson Senior High School but we still got to go all out for football games, homecoming, spirit weeks, senior festivities, and most importantly, prom.
All of these events happened in a weeks-worth of time I'm pretty sure. And it felt like the entire year was a countdown to graduation. Kim and I showed up on the last day of high school, our classes ended two weeks earlier and honestly, we felt a little nostalgic. We wandered the halls for the last time as students until the end of the day when the countdown came. "FIVE. FOUR. THREE. TWO. ONE!!! We made it…" All two hundred and sixty-five of us said in unison. This moment of course was followed by lots of tears. Not from me though, I couldn't be more excited for college at this point. Plus, I knew I'd have to see all these people again in a week for graduation. Ugh, high school was so dramatic.
Senior check out was a blur. Lots of confused 18 year olds not understanding how they never turned in their biology textbook from freshman year and managed to rack up way too much debt from the lunch snack bar. They all took the time to scramble with their phones to call mom.
"Hey you have an extra $95.32 sitting around the house that I could borrow?"
"what do you mean no? Come on mom, they won't let me graduate if I don't pay it back!"
"Fine, I'll work it off in chores."
It amazed me how all of these people were now going to be thrown into the real world of bills and responsibility.
Next came graduation. So, there it was. That diploma we'd been hearing about for as long as we could remember. All we had to do was make it across the stage, shake the principals hand, and get back to our seat in one piece.
"Ciara Francesca Gorby. Magna Kum Laude." I never thought I could be as nervous as I felt in that moment. Suddenly my knees felt like Jello and those heels I picked out strictly based off of my ability to walk in seemed VERY hard to walk in. And then it happened. So close to the third step, so close to that stage and I fell right on my face. Everyone laughed, I turned a hideous shade of red and I was forever remembered as "grace," based on my inability to be graceful when all eyes seemed to be on me.
Okay, I lied. That didn't happen. But man, I was so extremely positive it would. But it didn't and I survived. Speeches were given and hugs were exchanged followed by a monsoon of photos of you and those soon-to-be old high school friends you would probably never see again aside from the awkward running into each other at the grocery store and later, high school reunions.
And that was it. The beginning of the longest summer of our lives. Or so we thought.