Saying goodbye to the people you love is nothing like the movies. There is no hand grasp lingering until the last possible second until you are forced to let go. No one chases after your car with tears streaming down their face. Goodbye seems to be temporary. Change is a strange circumstance. It is inevitable to hope things stay the same, a constant flow and a steady road always leading you home again. It’s when that road leads you somewhere new, somewhere unfamiliar that you realize things will never be the same again, and then this thing called life happens.
Saying goodbye to my lifelong friends was both the strangest and most complicated thing I have ever gone through. For years we had talked about how leaving would be the best thing to ever happen to us. So much has changed since then. It is funny to look back now and see how blind we were to how good we had it. We had the closest friendships, woven together by unforgettable nights, hours of complete laughter, inside jokes and songs that explained us perfectly.
Sometimes I will hear a song that places me right back in one of my memories. Songs like “Give It Up” by the Format immediately send me back to a crammed showroom screaming out the words to my favorite songs, my arms wrapped around my friends so tightly it seemed we were one. Moments like this are bliss, the moments when all you care about are the people around you and the music filling your ears.
After a long morning of checking my list twice and taking in every detail of my room, I backed my Jeep out of my driveway in Houston, Texas and headed north to Oklahoma. A strange mixture of excitement, sadness and butterflies filled my stomach. Passing through the streets that I knew so well and then leaving them all behind left me confused. I didn’t understand that soon new streets would signify home for me.
I started my playlist that would hopefully keep my mind off of my nerves throughout my seven-hour drive. The first song to start playing was “Give It Up” by The Format. Automatically the lyrics connected me to what I was going through at that exact time. “I made my way back down to the valley, right on past 83rd Street, that’s where we once belonged but I’m gone.”
The lyrics were right, I was gone, at least for now. All I had to remind me of things from the past years of my life were pictures, music, and maybe the occasional scent that sent my mind wandering. No more familiar landmarks like the local Sonic, the ditch behind the Shell station, or my high school that would suddenly remind me of all the times I had been there and what had happened.
Some of my most blissful moments from my high school years were from my senior year. All I wanted was for that last year to fly by, and finally be done with the ever-so-clichéd high school years. Senior year ended with prom and graduation, two of the happiest moments of my life. The chorus of “Give It Up” was “So give it up throw your hats in the air and change just as they land, you’re saying we’ll get out of here, something tells me that you’re too scared to go.” In reality I was driving north on I-45, but in my head I was back fidgeting in my lawn chair sitting in my high school auditorium. The moments were barely inching past as I prepared myself for the moment when I would throw my royal blue graduation hat in the air and be done with this stage of my life.
The second that hat flew out of my hand I was released. As I watched my graduation hat fall, my high came down with it, and reality hit me as the hat hit the auditorium floor. I turned to my left and was immediately engulfed in the arms of my friend Lukas, and I could tell that he was feeling the same way I was. That was the first time that the butterflies came to my stomach, and I was afraid of leaving all this that was so familiar.
The song continued, as did my journey north toward Oklahoma. The next lyrics were, “Your eyes light up when we talk about the past, god I miss those songs we used to sing, talking like getting away would be the greatest thing.” I looked out my window at the screen of green pine trees whipping past me, and then I am back in my high school eating lunch with my friends, sitting next to one of the few windows in the school. Today is our senior class photo. As a tradition, all of the seniors wear a T-shirt with the college they are going to printed on the front. I look around the cafeteria and see a mixture of burnt orange, maroon, and purple shirts. It seems like everyone knew where they are going except me. I had just found out that I was not accepted to the school I had planned on going to my entire life, the University of Texas. My choices were narrowed down to OU, NYU, and a small private school in San Francisco.
At this point my friends and I were all non-stop planning for the next year. Every conversation we had was about who our roommates were going to be, and what we would need to pack. We couldn’t wait to leave and today was another milestone in our journey out of Houston. It was a Friday, and every Friday songs would play over the loudspeaker in between bells. As the lunch bell rang, the classic 80’s jam “We didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel began blaring over the loudspeakers.
My friends and I all linked arms and sang as we danced down the hallways. I looked around at my friends and took in every detail of the moment as if it were a picture. I will never forget moments like this. Snapping back into reality, driving again, my eyes began to water as I thought about how long it would be until another moment like that moment in the hall came along.
It is strange how quickly excitement can change into fear. Like that moment before entering a haunted house. It is all fun and games in the line leading up to the house, but once you’re inside and there are people chasing you around with chainsaws, the fun ends and all anyone wants to do is get the hell out of there. “Like a ghost, you’ve been haunting all these dusty roads and old homes.” This was exactly how I was feeling as I drove to Norman. I had stepped through the threshold into the haunted house and had to face what was inside and ahead of me.
I would soon find out that college isn’t so much scary as it is exhilarating. But on my drive to college—even after the Format song was over—all I was able to do was look back on the past 18 years of my life. Every memory all the way back to my childhood has a certain significance and has somehow led me here to this road that I am traveling on. The miles flew underneath my tires and my home was left farther and farther behind.
Miles away from anything familiar, I listened to “Give It Up” a second time and calmed down. The words soothed me. I knew that I had so many great memories from growing up. I turned off of the highway and headed down the main street of the OU campus. As the beautiful campus came into view, my mixed emotions came back over me. But this time another emotion was mixed in with it: hope. Hope that after I got through my homesickness this place could become my home.