Onward Bound

Have you ever had a first grader look at you sternly and insist that you “don’t know because you’re not even here ever!”? No? You’re missing out. Has your mother ever mentioned something and when you exclaim, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me that!” she murmurs, “Hm… did I not? I thought I did. I guess I forgot to call.” Have you ever felt absolutely equally torn between the family who made you strong enough to leave and the one who has taken care of you since you’ve gone?

I have.

This break has given me so many things: Rest. Calm. Relaxation. Guilt-free Friday Night Lights marathons.
But most importantly, it’s reconnected me to these people who used to be my moon and stars; it’s reminded me how much they still are. It put me back in my rightful spot in the sky next to them. And just like that, it’s time to climb down and go away again. And that, my friends, is no easy task.

The hardest part, I think, is not the actual driving away, though that will probably be harder than it’s ever been before because this is the longest I’ve spent here since I left in the first place; it’s the first time I really, really looked around and thought, “I don’t really want to leave,” though it’s not because I don’t love Tuscaloosa. That’s the hardest part: I do love Tuscaloosa. And I will be happy to back. And it will only be a matter of days before I fall so seamlessly back into my routines there, before I’m walking the University’s sidewalks just like I’ve been doing for the last 18 months. It will only be a couple of days before it seems like I never left at all, before my spot at this table becomes the places for stray papers again and they go about business as usual, too. And suddenly, there will be days without talking again, because, hey, we’re all busy. There will be games that I miss because I can’t get home and important decisions I make without their input because, when it comes down to it, I’m on my own now.

But now, while I’m here, sitting at this table, that’s hard to believe. It’s difficult for me to fathom getting in the car and driving away and going back to a life that doesn’t involve them, a whole world that belongs to me alone. And while part of me wants to curl up and say, “Forget it. I’d rather live here forever,” I know that I wouldn’t be making them proud if I did that. I’m not the only one who worked my butt off to get me into college, and to back out now it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to be at the dinner table again would be seriously disgracing everyone’s hard work. And let’s not forget that I do love Tuscaloosa. I love school. And I really, really love my family there, too.

So I will pack up all my belongings- all of those that multiplied ten fold since I arrived 34 days ago- and I will hug them goodbye, and I will linger. It will take me longer than usual to gather my gumption and get in that car. I will walk right out of their lives again and take up my place further north.

But I will be doing it with their strength, their blessings, and their love pushing me along. I will be doing it with them in mind.

And I’ll be back.

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