Today, two good friends of mine for work will pack up their cars and head off in different directions on I-40, taking kids to college. For one, it’s the first daughter she’s ever had to pack up and move into a new phase of life. For the other, it’s the second child to move to college, and when he and his wife come home on Saturday night, their house will be quiet. It will just be the two of them for the first time since having kids.
And as they pack up all those belongings—books, posters, bedding, clothes, and the very stuff of daily life—there’s the sense of a door closing. And another one opening.
I remember moving to college for the first time. As a twin, I’d always thought, for some reason, that my brother and I would go to college together. We’d done everything else in life together—walking, starting school, junior high, high school graduation, proms. But when it came time to go to college, he stayed closer to home (for the first several years), and I moved five hours away to attend the biggest state school in Missouri.
We moved my brother in on a Friday, then drove from there to Columbia and moved me in on Saturday. The Thursday night before we left, I remember walking into the living room of my parents’ house, which at that time was my house, too, the house I’d lived most of my life in up until that moment. And as I gazed over all the stuff—suitcases, towels, laundry baskets, and everything else—I remember feeling overwhelmed by an anxiousness and sadness I couldn’t quite define and a little fire of excitement. I was excited about college and new opportunities, but walking through that open door meant something else in my life was ending. After we packed up that car and headed to college, I would be responsible for myself. My identity would no longer be tied up in being someone’s child or sister. For all intents and purposes, I would be a “grown up.” I’d live somewhere somewhat independently for more months out of the year than I would live in my parents’ house. I would figure out how to do things my own way. I would make decisions—with my parents’ input, but I would make the call myself—all on my own.
The door of childhood was closing, and it scared me. Truth be told, I hated my first year of college and was terribly homesick for most of it.
But another door was opening.
And by walking through it, I learned to be an independent young woman, no longer a child. I learned that working hard and doing your best truly do speak well of you. Instead of depending on my brother’s natural ease in big groups of people he didn’t know, I had to make friends for myself. And I had to come to terms with my faith and own it in ways I never could have if I’d stayed closer to home.
Leaving any phase of life is hard, but there is always joy along the way. And it’s always worth it.