By Melissa Mathies
I walked away quickly, trying to hide the tears that were gathering in my eyes. Traitors, I thought, as I hastily wiped away the few that escaped. As I opened my car door, I looked back and waved goodbye to my brother and sisters, who stood in front of the cabin. I couldn’t believe I was doing this.
My stomach protested as my anxiety showed itself. I kept chanting to myself, I can do this, I can do this. I hit the gas and drove away from the comfortable life I had with my family to start my own adventure, to prove that I could do what no one really thought I could do.
With my parents following me, I drove through the twists and turns of the “up north” roads, thankful I was only driving an hour instead of three and a half hours the drive took from my home in Otsego. The drive went by quickly, and when the school came into view, I felt the anxiety spike as I tried to calm my breathing. My dad’s blue Chevy pickup truck came into view in my rearview mirror, and I felt calmer for the last few minutes of driving.
We parked in the Birch parking lot and walked to the physical education building to get the schedule for the weekend. Once we got the schedule, my mom and I walked towards Pine Hall as my dad went to get my car so we could unpack all my stuff. The halls were crowded as we pushed our way to the second floor check-in area. I filled out the necessary paperwork and was led to my new room and my new home by the residential assistant, Kelcy.
My dad found his way to my room with a box of my things in his arms, and he smiled at me as he set the box down and led my mom and me to where he parked my car. We hauled the rest in to my room, and my mom and I got to work putting things away, organizing things how I wanted them, and making my new, smaller bed.
I gazed around my room as my mom sat in the chair that came with it, and I wondered if I was going to make it through this school year—if I was even going to make it through the first night.
My dad carried in the last box and then helped me set up my television and mini-refrigerator as my mom kept looking around, trying to get a feel for where her youngest daughter was going to live.
“Damn, it’s hot in here,” my mom said suddenly. I realized she was right as sweat dripped down my back.
My dad jumped up. “I’ll run to Walmart and buy a bigger fan. Do you need anything else?”
I asked for something to drink and he walked out of the room, leaving my mom and me alone. As he walked away, I felt the tears building up again and couldn’t stop them this time. The anxiety had come back, and I didn’t think it would leave any time soon. I shook my head, angry at myself.
“Are you going to be okay?” my mom asked me as she watched me with concern.
I shrugged my shoulders as sobs shook my body. I was terrified of what was going to happen next, what I would do without my parents always there to help me and protect me as they had for the first nineteen years of my life. My mom talked me down from the attack and hugged me as we waited for my dad to return.
Once he was back, we went back to the physical education building for the boring speeches that people delivered. As we sat there, I could feel the same fear that always tormented me when I was away from home. I leaned into my mom as the traitorous tears streamed down my cheeks again. My residential assistant sat behind me and patted my back as the speeches and tears continued. Soon all the parents were ushered out of the room, and we students were ushered down from the bleachers to take a “class of 2017” photo.
As I anxiously looked around, wanting to get back to my parents, they started moving us out of the gym and off to different buildings to meet with our First Year Experience seminar class. I split off from the group of people and called my parents, needing to say goodbye before they went back to the cabin.
“Where are you?” I asked as soon as my mom answered her phone.
“We are walking down the side walk. We see you,” she replied and hung up.
The tears were still coming as my parents reached the spot where I was standing. My mom hugged me, telling me they had to go back to the cabin and pack up, but that they would see me tomorrow for the parent/student goodbye lunch. Once they left, I went to my first year experience class and listened to the teacher drone on and on as I fought another attack of anxiety.
Once we were released, I quickly made my way back to the dorm with my phone in my hand, texting Jackie, my only friend from home who had come up to Bemidji for school.
“Where are you?” I typed.
Almost immediately a reply came in. “In my dorm. Want me to come over?”
I felt instantly relieved. I responded with a yes and waited for her to get there. My stomach was in knots the rest of the night, even when we went to the dinner Bemidji State was hosting, and even still at the party held at the lake.
When we reached my room after the party, Jackie and I watched movies and ate Domino’s pizza. Once she left for the night, the fear made its way back into my mind.
For the first time in my life, I realized, I was truly on my own.
Melissa Mathies is a freshman majoring in creative and professional writing at BSU. She gets her inspiration for writing from her parents, three older siblings, her nephew, and her imagination and experiences. One day she hopes to become a famous author or work at a publishing house, or, preferably, both.