(ninety) or LEAVING HOME HAS NEVER BEEN SO HARD

I have been waiting to save this story for my last blog post, because I am a believer in things that come full circle.

I didn’t want to go to Bryn Mawr, Bryn Mawr wanted me to go to them. I don’t know how they found me to be honest. But they did- having sent me about a tree trunks worth of informational flyers and mail, they finally reached out to me using a human being. The admissions ambassador was sweet, and very kind, and seemed interested in me as a person, even if I didn’t decide to come to BMC. We would email back and forth every so often, her usually giving me helpful hints on how to apply and reminding me that it would all work out. I mentioned very briefly that I ran, and she immediately put me into contact with the cross country team, who sent me love and support as I applied for colleges. Realizing that I had a small close knit unit who seemed interested in me attending this far off institution, I decided to give it a chance. So- I looked more into the all-girls school that was smaller than my public high school. It was ranked very highly, seemed to have a good community, and was out of Florida. Check, check, check. I applied and I waited.

I got in.

Jump to April 2013, a miserably cold day in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and an even colder day for me- having just spent the early morning hours flying from Miami to Philadelphia. I arrived later to the campus than expected because the taxi driver had “gotten lost”, and had taken the longest way possible to campus to hike up my bill. Already car sick and dreading the campus tour, I yanked out my overnight bag, and entered the admissions office. I wish I could tell you that the Spring flowers were in bloom, and that the admissions office was warm and nice and it was love at first sight, but it was raining, I was alone, and I was already dreading the next 24 hours. I was realizing how far away PA was from my home town, especially all of my friends who would be staying in state to go to some of the largest schools in the country. I reminded myself that I had gotten a nice scholarship, and that made this school an option for me, and I needed to suck it up and get through it. Plus my parents loved it. Having been college educated themselves, Bryn Mawr had always been a name they had associated with success. So for them I needed to pretend to entertain this as a possibility.

My hosts arrived soon afterwards. First years living in Brecon, they seemed to bring a bit of life into the otherwise empty campus. They huddled me under their shared umbrella, and walked around the campus holding me close, telling me about locations, classes, their experiences, where they were from- all while carefully guiding me around puddles and adjusting themselves to protect me as the rain fell harder. I didn’t think they did it on purpose to impress the admitted student (me), I think they did it because it was their personalities to want to help others. We slowly approached Brecon, and they helped me to their room, where they had built me a makeshift bed. Realizing that I didn’t have much with me in terms of bedding, the two women had reached out to their hall mates and had gotten an extra comforter, a squishy yoga mat to be used as a mattress, an extra sheet, two extra pillows, and a stuffed animal for me to use (just in case).

That night was spent sitting in their room as waves of people came to greet me. It was the most bizarre feeling- like a family member that had been long gone had been returned, and all of the extended family was coming to welcome me back home. It was like everyone knew that someone new was here, and they were happy to have me here, asking me questions, answering the things I brought up, making sure I was comfortable, bringing me things they thought I would need. As the night wore on, my guard lessened and lessened, and I became less afraid of this unfamiliar place. My hosts were with me the entire time, and they made sure that I knew I could be alone if I wanted to be (I didn’t).

The next day I was greeted by another round of students who wanted to know if I wanted to join them for breakfast. The night had brought about another wave of anxiety, so being a bit more shy I agreed, but didn’t do much talking. I think they picked up on that, making sure that I had space to myself but still felt included. At the time I didn’t know how they could pick that up, but I soon realized it was a trait most Bryn Mawr students had. They walked me to the class that I would be sitting in on, promising me that they would come back for me once it was done.

They did. They were on time, and waiting for me when it was over. They were asking me how it was, gossiping about the Professor and lovingly teasing him. The little promises kept made me feel good, and the class itself had seemed interesting. It wasn’t so big and scary and unknown anymore- it seemed a bit more like home. I wanted to feel at home here, and I did as I walked alongside complete strangers laughing at something that had happened days before. If I could melt into this world, I would have done it in a heart beat. Everyone seemed so nice and kind and put together, and here I was- just a nervous little senior who wanted to get out of Florida so badly, but still couldn’t decide if she had it in her to leave home and everything behind.

But would I really be leaving home if BMC became my home?

On the airplane back to Miami I cried. I knew that I only had one choice and I would forever kick myself if I didn’t go to this mysterious place tucked away in the Philadelphia suburbs. I felt that I was leaving one home for another, and I didn’t know if I had it in me to leave my life behind, especially when everyone at home were continuing on together. It was like I was going left, when every one else was going right. Despite my worry, I knew it was the right thing to do.

I can tell you all about the journeys I had, the people I met, and the person I’ve become at Bryn Mawr. I can tell you about the strength I have gained and the independence I’ve accumulated. I can tell you about my accomplishments and my failures, and how this small historically women’s college has shaped the being that I now inhabit, but unfortunately this story is about leaving Miami for Bryn Mawr, and now leaving Bryn Mawr for an even lesser unknown. You see, I’m leaving home again. This time, for the last time. My childhood home still exists in the memories of my mind, and the physical space of my parents, but I know when I leave Bryn Mawr, it will never be the same. Constantly changing with the students who come through it, Bryn Mawr will mesh and mold to their needs. The finality in which I leave is heart breaking- having chosen to leave my homes in the past, I knew I could return, but not now.

With time, I expect the sadness to fade away a bit, but I still expect to look back on Bryn Mawr with fondness and a wish to close my eyes and be back walking alongside complete strangers laughing at something that had happened days before, realizing that I was at the top of the world, crying happy tears in a cramped flight back to Miami, realizing that for the first time I had a home that wanted me long before I had wanted it. In the end, leaving home has never been so hard.

7 thoughts on “(ninety) or LEAVING HOME HAS NEVER BEEN SO HARD

  1. This was so beautiful and moving! I have tears in my eyes. We used to live in Miami Beach. Now we live in Seattle. My son, Adam, goes to school with you. Thank you for this lovely piece of writing. I wish you great luck on your next adventure.

  2. Angela, this was beautiful. As a parent, when you send your precious daughter to college this, this! is what you hope she feels.. as you move through the world your experience of home expands until you realize the world is your home.. may you have many wonderful homes. Thank you for an essay that made me tear up too.

    Anna Ks mom

  3. I’m an alumna just arrived to visit BMC and I came across this post.
    “It was the most bizarre feeling- like a family member that had been long gone had been returned, and all of the extended family was coming to welcome me back home”
    “I had a home that had wanted me long before I wanted it”

    Touching words, makes me even more excited to see Bryn Mawr again. I connect strongly to your experience and wish you so well as you move past. Know that you will also always have a place in this “mysterious place tucked away in the Philadelphia suburbs.” Warm thoughts your way

  4. As someone who just came back to Bryn Mawr for the first real time since graduation (about 2 years ago for me), I know I felt the same way. And the thing is, that strange phenomenon of feeling like family to strangers? It happens when you’re a visiting grad, too, and when you meet random Mawrters at alum events, and even when you (like me) might have dinner at the house of one about 60 years older than you.

    And, while the people will change, the school will remember you. The trees will be happy that you’re back and so will the fountains and the cloisters and the flowers in Taft and the benches and the long green grass and the bell.

    I always had such horrible allergies to the trees, and they only happened right at the end of the year. They were worst of all on graduation day and the day I left this year, sitting on the senior steps. And then someone told me that it was because they were crying. The pollen was from the trees being sad about me leaving again. Which is pretty narcissistic to think that the whole campus of trees would cry for me, but it made a kind of sense, because I always felt like Bryn Mawr was a magical, alive place.

    If you get allergies this year and find pollen on literally everything, at least you’ll know why.

  5. My darling sister went to Bryn Mawr. I know how much she adored going there. She is very quiet and bookish, so Bryn Mawr was perfect for her. She made a great many wonderful and lifelong friends there and has kept in touch with all of them, like an extended family, a sisterhood. She entered as a shy girl, and graduated as a strong and confident woman and academic. I admit to being jealous that I didn’t go there, but I love my sister, and am proud of how she was able to find a home, to deeply and truly able to blossom.

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