A year and a half – that’s how long it took. That’s how long I had been in college up until that point. That’s how long I had been in a constant routine of trains, ferries, and subways and having to miss everything school had to offer because it took me two hours to get home. That’s how long I hoped, prayed, and cried to get a spot, to have a real college experience and, most importantly, to learn how to be independent. To learn how to take care of myself without my parents.
A year and a half into my college years, in early February of my sophomore year, I finally got my wish. I was accepted into the Hunter College Brookdale dormitory. I would finally get to have a real college experience, to be on my own, to actually go to that club meeting I usually missed because I had to catch the ferry, and to find an internship. I got the acceptance email on my commute home from school – and I had a panic attack.
How was this possible? I had just been rejected for the third time from Brookdale only two weeks earlier. The passengers in the train car gave me the side-eye as I forced myself to keep my hyperventilating and crying to a barely obvious minimum. This was exactly what I wanted. I’d had a meltdown in my bedroom, sobbing in my mother’s lap, just a few months prior. My college experience wasn’t miserable, per se, but I felt like I was missing out on so much by going to a commuter school where people didn’t care about socializing, only going to class and going home. I hated being a commuter. Why was I so nervous?
Because it meant, for the first time in my 20 years of life, that I would have to move out of my home. I would have to leave my ever loving, doting parents, my sacred, beloved bed that I slept in from the age of five, and all the memories I had made during my 15 years of living there. Was I ready to be on my own? Was I ready to leave the nest?
There’s an old saying about wanting something until you have it, and then not wanting it anymore. It’s not that I didn’t want a dorm, but I didn’t realize it would send me into a public display of panic. I spent that whole train ride texting my friends in all caps, not sure what to do or how to feel. It was about 7 o’clock at night when I stepped off the train, my legs wobbling as I moved towards my home, the anxiety sweeping over me. My whole family was home – our new normal now that my dad was injured and healing from work, where he would usually not come home until 9 or 10 o’clock at night every day. I was excited to have him home. Now I would be the one to leave. I took a deep breath as I made my way into my home and into the kitchen, where my mom was cooking dinner.
“Where are dad and Sydney?” I asked, trying not to show my vulnerability.
“They’re in my room, why? Is something wrong?” I didn’t hide it well.
“I have to tell you guys something, but I want to tell you all together.”
The color rushed from my mom’s face, making her look like Casper the ghost. “Should I be worried?” She thought I was pregnant.
“No mom, it’s not that. Just come upstairs.”
We approached her room, my mom still looking skeptical and worried, when I broke the news. My mom, who turned back to her normal tan color almost instantly, my dad, and my sister cheered for me. I broke out in sobs. I didn’t know what to do.
I wasn’t ready to leave my family. For the first time in a long time, I was starting to love being home. However, I knew if I didn’t leave, I would never find my independence. I would never learn how to take care of myself. Two weeks later, my parents moved me in. We cried, and I wasn’t sure if this was the right thing to do.
Now I’m here, almost two years later, about to be kicked out because I was only guaranteed four semesters, and I’m panicking again. My senior year is already full of uncertainties for the future, and moving out of Brookdale isn’t something I’m ready to accept. But as I get ready to move back home, I’ll be returning to the place I left as a dependent girl, who didn’t know how to survive without her parents, an independent woman who still doesn’t know how to cook, but has gained valuable life experience by moving out, even if it was only temporary.
Author’s note: In the time since I wrote this piece, my appeal to stay at Brookdale for my last semester was (thankfully) granted! So I am no longer full of panic about moving home, but don’t worry – I’ll be panicking even more when I actually have to move out in May.