The day I leave for the next four years, my mother makes me a big breakfast. We packed the small U-Haul trailer the night before and the next morning the four of us leave together, my parents, brother and me packed into the white Blazer, my childhood bedroom jammed into the trailer, everything clearly labeled with my name.
We drive I-5, a route I learn to simultaneously love and hate. We pass fields, dilapidated gas stations and cows. Today is my first day of college, my first night away from home. Everything is ending. Everything is beginning.
When my mom, dad and brother leave the next afternoon ---after the never-ending unpacking, after the nervous meet and greets, ---I'm hit, powerfully and suddenly, by the understanding of how alone I am. I have two roommates, a cross-country team, and hundreds of other freshmen starting at the university, but I don’t know any of them yet.
I go home at Thanksgiving, 101 days after I waved to my parents from my apartment parking lot, and my dad is at LAX to greet me. He makes small talk on the entire 90 minute commute home, updating me on local town news. For the next three blissful days, I am cocooned within my family again: turkey dinner, high school friends, familiar trails and an awkward date with my boyfriend – at this point maybe in name only.
But the time comes for me to leave again, and when it does, my mother and father drive me to John Wayne airport and we sit at the gate, and I realize that I am eager and excited to fly back to Sacramento, and get back to my new friends and new school and new life - and this thought makes me feel guilty.