Please welcome today’s guest writer, Emily Armstrong. Emily, Calvin class of 2019, is an adventure-seeking graduate who packed up her car with all of her personal belongings and moved to the first place Google led her. She uses her theatre and social work background to find new ways to create community and satisfy her inner Enneagram 2. In her role as a communications manager, she loves using her performance knowledge to help put on events for nonprofits as well as encouraging others to try new things.
Four days ago I laid on my bed and felt myself losing track of time. I stared at my ceiling, placing special care into the spaces where the paint was peeling and let my lungs fill up with the humid New York air. In and out, in and out, I began counting the seconds in between breaths, reminding myself that this moment, in all its magnificence, may never be felt again. My room looked like a tornado had claimed the space for its own and every item I owned lay wrinkled and spewed about the floor, forcing me to inspect each and every one before tucking them in my luggage.
I was attempting to pack when it dawned on me that this was it. This was another stopping point to another season in my life. Whether it was a pause or an ending altogether, I may never know until it happens. However, what I do know is that that fresh air tasted so good. In and out, in and out, I thanked each minute I was there for teaching me what it did.
After some time, I began the nearly impossible task of trying to fit the material contents of my life into my car. Shonda, as I have so lovingly named my Chrysler, should have died on me months after I bought her, but I have learned that golden retrievers aren’t the only loyal friend a person can have. With mugs wrapped into sweatshirts and umbrellas thrown into laundry baskets, I finally was able to say I was all ready to go. (Just don’t open up my trunk because I’m not sure I’ll be able to close it again.)
With a couple prolonged and tearful goodbyes, I drove down the dirt road heading away from the antiquely beautiful place I’ve lived the last three months and headed west. Still unclear whether Shonda would make it or not, I followed Google Maps diligently towards my first stop in Cleveland. I was worried if I got lost that Shonda would get mad and die in resistance to the extra mileage. From start to finish the trip was supposed to take thirty-one hours if driven straight through. I enlisted my gracious and patient dad to be my driver in residence. Unbeknownst to us, we actually made great travel companions, mostly because of our love of Bruno Mars and air conditioning on full blast. We talked and sang so much that I actually lost my voice and developed a sore throat. But swollen throat be damned, we still had three more days of traveling ahead.
There are several “worst parts” about driving across the country. Maybe one of my least favorites are toll roads. All I am saying is Google Maps should warn you more than a small dollar sign that you are about to pay the price of a nice meal just to exist through Ohio. Some tolls are thirty cents and some expect your left foot and your firstborn child. Some take credit cards while others will only accept Sacagawea coins found at the bottom of the Caspian sea. You never know what you’re going to get when you pull up to these white booths of hell, but nevertheless I had to press on.
After four long days of driving, I finally saw the thing that we were driving towards this whole time: the Texas state line. I flung my arm across the seat, knocking my poor, un-expecting dad in the forehead, waking him from his deep slumber, rolled down the windows and screamed at the top of my lungs, “SHONDA MADE IT!! I MADE IT! I’M HOME!” The hot Texan air filled my car for the first time and although it tasted different than the air of New York, it still filled my lungs just the same.
Something about long car rides makes you wonder if you’re ever going to get to your destination. Towns start to blend together and meal times don’t exist. You drink more McDonald’s Diet Coke than you’ve ever had in your life and you forget what a good shower feels like.
When we finally pulled up to my new apartment and saw that my new housemates had stuck post-it notes on my door that said “Welcome HOME,” I felt like I finally made it. I felt home. A new place with new beginnings and also new ends. I won’t share my final verdict until I’ve lived at least 364 more days in this apartment, but at least for today, I feel like I reached my destination.