Ten years ago this week, I started college.
It was such a strange feeling. I was seven hours away from home, but it felt like an entirely different world. I’d gone from the flatlands of southeastern Michigan, the crowded suburbs south of Detroit, to the high hills and brilliant green trees of West Virginia. The entire campus was on top of a mountain, and the little town was in the valley below. Such a view we had from the back patio of the administration building! The town had two stoplights, three gas stations, and approximately ten churches, not counting the chapel up on campus. There were two grocery stores, one drug store, a one-screen movie theatre which cost $3 for admission, and a covered bridge. For comparison’s sake, the nearest mall was 30 minutes away. Back home, there were malls of great size within 10 minutes.
So into this alien world I came, fresh from high school and the minor triumphs I’d had there, missing my mom and my baby brother, wondering whatever had possessed me to go so far away. I’d never seen anything like this little town in the valley or the little campus on the hill above. Seven hours is not really that long of a drive, when you think about it, but it was much more than mere distance which separated Detroit from small town WV.
Looking back, I’m surprised that I wasn’t terrified. I have problems meeting new people, and these were not only new people, but a new TYPE of people from what I was used to. I was facing a cultural divide, and I knew it.
Yet I was not afraid. Shy and quiet at first, yes, but not truly afraid. I had an odd sense that first morning of classes, a sense that I was on the threshold of something which would be vitally important to me, something that would shape me for all the days left to come. I can see myself as I was that morning, standing on the porch of my residence hall in that sun-warmed, green-scented air, my hair clipped short, in t-shirt, faded denim shorts, and well-worn sneakers. My backpack was slung over both shoulders—not over just one, the way high schoolers carry them—and my new class schedule was in my hand. It was a threshold, a crossroads, the very beginning of something I didn’t yet understand, but something I knew would matter. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I was on my way.
Ten years later, I’m at another crossroads. My road goes on from here, but it’s going to be very different from what I had ever planned or imagined. These next few years will be strange ones, ones that will shape me and guide my life as surely as those four years on College Hill did. It’s a new beginning, and here I stand in my baggy jeans and faded purple t-shirt, my backpack full of strange and beautiful things I might need or want, ready to bound up the path in my well-worn sneakers.
I don’t know where I’m going, but at least I’m on my way.