A couple of days ago I got an email from Reed, where I plan to go to college next year, telling me that I had been chosen for a Backpacking Outdoor Odyssey - a kind of a freshman trip the week before Orientation in the Pacific Northwest. I was ecstatic - this meant that I got to be in an outdoors I didn't know very well, meeting the kids I would be spending the next four years with. My father loved his freshman trip at Dartmouth, even if he didn't spend that much time with those people he met there afterwards; my mother always regretted not going on one. The Pacific Northwest is supposed to be beautiful, and I can't wait to go to the Columbia River Gorge and the Cascades. But my sister wasn't as excited as I was.
"What do you mean, you're leaving us a whole week early?! You want to go hiking with people you don't even know rather than going on vacation with us, your family? Do you not love us anymore?" Paraphrased, but still. And I understand what she means - I'm leaving my darling family - my family who have been my best friends, my confidants, the people I see and talk to every day, for what? For a week with other unwashed nervous kids in the mountains, for blistery feet in new hiking boots? I'm super-excited to go to college and to go on this amazing trip, but I'm also pretty apprehensive about leaving my family.
Originally I was going to spend half of my gap year at home with my family and half of it away. But then we ended up going to Paris and one thing led to another and now the longest I've ever been away from my family was this month-long trip with Alexandra, where we were so caught up in a whirlwind of museums and sights and overnight trains that I rarely had time to experience that heartache of missing the people I love. It helped that I wrote emails to my family every day I could, pulling out our electronic device (Alexandra's father's iPad) in hostels and Starbucks' and cafes with posters in the windows advertising free wifi. I don't know how college is going to be - I don't know what I will do in the space between classes and studying and sailing and being with my friends when my heart turns over in the absence of the people I love.
This doesn't mean that I don't want to go to school or that I don't want to go backpacking – in fact, I want to go really badly. But I'm also scared of going off on my own, of missing my family so much that it hurts.