To those who are far away

Trial and Error

Some may say that I did it the wrong way. Instead of leaving Michigan for college and setting sail on my own, my parents moved with me.

My dad had gotten a job in the Bay Area, and they rented a nice house on the bay about 30 minutes away from campus. I could go home on the weekends. My parents are both Pasadena natives who lived around the corner from each other, went to the same high school and eventually fell in love (classic, I know). Ever since I’ve been around, they always said that someday we would move “back home.” When I was younger, that didn’t make sense to me. Because for me, home was wherever we were at the time. That “we” is important.

In any case, during my first two and a half years at Cal, I felt safe because they were so close. I had somewhere to turn to, a place to run in times of need, a hiding place that was mine. Of course, then I hadn’t realized how nice that was. But I cherished the time that they were there.

Then the unexpected happened. They moved. It was just this February, in the middle of my junior year. And the departure was swifter than I had hoped, abrupt and emotional. This year had been a tough one as I was grappling with the ever-pressing question: “Who am I and what is my purpose in life?” With them gone, it only got rougher. Overwhelmed, I was in free fall. Nothing was in my control anymore, and I was truly on my own.

It wasn’t gradual. I had been thrown down a rabbit hole, and I was falling fast. I was Alice in a bottle floating along in the ocean, sitting in my tears and no way to get out of my own head. I couldn’t wait for school to end so that I could go home (now a different place, the glorious mountains of Colorado) and be with my family.

Luckily, I am a person who likes to be busy. This year, I probably set a record for the amount of things that I was involved with at one time. I was in clubs (in high school I was never into clubs and I am not sure why). I had friends. I was taking classes that I enjoyed. Learning and working was taking up a good portion of my time (but I still had my fair share of breakdowns at work because I am a human being).

But a part of me was still lonely and longing for something. I was looking for a place called home, and unfortunately, it felt like home had left me.

Love is more than everything to me; it’s family. Technically and spatially, I had lost my local support system. Virtually, I hadn’t. So I took advantage of this. I called my mom basically every day (because we all need moms, don’t act like that isn’t true). I texted and snapchatted my siblings sporadically — because I am terrible at keeping up a snap streak, so why try? And my dad never failed to tell me that he was proud of me and that he loved me, even when it felt like I didn’t deserve it and when I wasn’t doing anything that great.

Before she left, my mom set me up with some of her friends. The three of us met in a Starbucks in Alameda to chat before I had class. This woman was another mom who had a kid in college far away, so she understood.

Things started to turn around when I reached out to more people. Some of those connections faded fast because I was looking for love in all the wrong places. And some were built to last, to grow stronger and to bond us together forever.

When loved ones leave, they leave a piece of themselves with us. And I know this sounds dramatic like they died but they didn’t. It felt like a part of me died and there were probably more hard days than good ones.

But where was my independence? When they left, I felt alone, and that was hard. And for a long time, I couldn’t see how I would ever be able to overcome these emotions. But I realize now, that over time I have grown more independent (with my loved ones telling me what I lack and where to improve). I can (sort of) stand on my own. I can walk into a new environment on my own (with a few butterflies) and come out changed. That is the point. I can no longer be static when life is so dynamic.

Morgan writes the Wednesday column on risk-taking. Contact her at [email protected].