Moving Away to College to Find Yourself...
As a child my family visited San Francisco, and I can’t remember anything but the Golden Gate Bridge.
It was a foggy day, a misty magical day. Nothing had ever felt so majestic, and I had never felt so sure. I willed myself to return. I listened repeatedly to the song, “I Left my Heart in San Francisco” that squeaked out of an airport snow globe grabbed at the very last minute. I hadn’t quite left my heart there, but a number of my dreams, free to roll about in those thick clouds and burn bright against the day like the red of the wires.
My heart now has a reservation. This fall I’ll be reunited with those dreams, stuffed in the dorm room of a university in the middle of San Francisco. Part of me is ecstatic—I want to scream to myself as a little girl “You did it!!! You made it back!!!” Ever since my campus visit last spring, I’ve pictured myself in a million different ways. I imagine myself running up the 142 steps to get to the hilltop campus, late to class (yes, even this is idealized in my mind). I can’t wait to sleep on the huge green lawn, awakening to foggy skies and a thousand colorful rooftops. I dream of jumping on the bus to the bay and walking slowly in the ocean-licked sand. Located in a historic hippie neighborhood of the city, my friends joke I’ll return to Colorado with waist long hair and far too many bandanas for my own good.
Memories of the city and perceptions of college have always been fantasies, and have created idealistic images of myself, usually as the hippie-adventurer-city dweller-California girl. We all picture ourselves in a different way, in the peak of all we could be in the future. But parts of my upcoming experience are as foggy as my first day on the bridge. There are neighborhoods of reasoning through which I am just now embarking. Maybe my hair will grow longer. No doubt the city will become my home and my footprints will mark the beaches. But I am also preparing to move away from the home I have always known. I must not only give attention to the hellos, but the goodbyes. Not just the beginnings, but the endings. And this is the place, after my hair growing and sleeping on lawns and excursions into my dreams, from which I will launch my life.
Middle school is middle school. High school is high school. They’re pretty much mass delivered. They are the first struggle for identity—to see how well we can fend for ourselves and grow within the confines of sticky classrooms and packed cafeterias amongst people who try to make us forget who we are. So, we emerge from both with slightly shaky legs and wide smiles and the world we have known patting us on the back. Then what? Colleges with clean classrooms and vast campuses and enough room for a million dreams to float in the air. A city of new cuisine and new mentalities that thrive. People that don’t challenge who you are, but ask who you are (and truly want to know). So what I now search for is what to tell them. More than what clothes to bring and what bedspread to choose, more so even than selecting a major and classes, I am packing in my suitcase the memories and in my heart pieces of who I am.
My advice is to remember your dreams as a child, and to believe in yourself as you did then. Find your own San Francisco, the place where the person you become will truly begin life. Find whichever bridge will get you there. Your dreams are more than a song or a snow globe. Maybe it’s already the cheesy hippie in me talking, but your heart reservation is waiting somewhere. Wish me luck in fulfilling mine.
Hannah was the first teen contributor to our Teen Page. She is an amazing library volunteer and TAB member. We wish her much happiness as she moves on to her new adventure!