Every single morning, I wake up in my freshman dorm room on my twin XL bed and my cheap mattress topper.
And every single morning, I wake up sore and pissed off.
Shoulders, legs, back — it’s always something. Some sort of aching to remind me exactly where I am.
This time last year, I woke up every day in my childhood bedroom to the sound of my dad mowing the lawn followed by the smell of freshly cut grass. I always felt the tiny footsteps of my younger sisters stomping down the hallway and giggling at each other — ensuring that each day would be welcomed with joy. I always woke up happy and I always woke up comfortable.
I haven’t felt that degree of comfortability since I moved into my jail-cell of a dorm back in August.
While I finally feel as if I have space to shed my skin, grow and breathe, this newfound independence has not been discovered without sacrifice. The price of independence seems to be the comfort and stability I’ve aged out of — like an old sweater that never survives a second growth spurt.
With each minute spent aging, I feel twinges of panic, regretting the moments not spent writing or reading. I want to see the world and learn from it, finding joy in nuances and knowledge. I want to write journals that look like novels, sprawling with stories of my youth, but it’s impossible to write everything down.
I don’t want future me to mourn the things she never wrote about.
It breaks my heart that I’ve never written about late-night Dunkin’ runs with random classmates in southern Ohio. You could leave as strangers but come back as friends. There’s something special about driving past cornfields and empty parking lots together in a beat-up Ford Fusion that you and your friends named Frank. Windows down and radio blaring, the 15-minute drive somehow solidified a bond built solely on your mutual disdain for boring suburban life.
I refuse to let go of people-watching at Walmart with my dad. We’d window shop and search for tacky t-shirts while whispering about the unique demographic who shops at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday. Once we saw an opossum on a bright-purple leash and laughter filled the cab of his pickup truck the whole ride home. I smiled as I thought to myself, maybe Ohio isn’t too boring.
It’s hard realizing that while I’m getting older, he’s getting older too (sorry dad). And there’s nothing I can do about it. My roller-coaster buddy, driving instructor and toughest critic now grunts as he lowers himself into the living room chair that has molded to fit the shape of his body over the years. I wonder which memories fill him with nostalgia and which ones have since slipped away into time.
I question what my sisters would think if they spent a day at college with me. I bet they’d find humor in the fact that their oldest and bossiest sibling, who always had a plan, now barely knows what to eat for breakfast each morning. I went from earning straight A’s and setting household standards to chasing after the unreliable Stampede and being perpetually late to class.
I tightly grasp these memories between exhausted fingers and mourn their passing while the moment is still in the making. My shoulders feel heavy while drinking cheap wine out of red Solo cups on my college friend’s dirty apartment floor. We talk for hours about boys and laugh until our stomachs ache. This bliss is short-lived when I realize one day I’ll even grieve these moments too.
I miss my dad and I’m lost without my sisters. I miss rejuvenating Dunkin’ runs and I even sort of miss boring, uneventful Ohio. Sometimes I think I’d do anything to feel that predictability again. But I know someday I’ll miss this — I’ll mourn fraternity parties, crappy dining hall food and bumpy Stampede rides. And the second I start getting too comfortable, I’ll move out and even miss my jail-cell dorm room.
I’ll wake up tomorrow morning on my twin XL bed and my cheap mattress topper — sore and pissed off. Consider it growing pains.
Kayla Estrada is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kayla Estrada is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. She is an English major who enjoys rainy weather, “Bob’s Burgers” and asking people who they voted for. When she’s not writing, she can be found hunting for odd-looking knick-knacks at the nearest thrift store.