When I think of my childhood, I think of the beach. I think of hours tramping in the ocean; wandering along the shore, collecting shells and driftwood with a childish eye for beauty and perfection; being flung around like a ragdoll in the washer after slipping off my boogie board; sundry family vacations; and constructing castles out of sand, shells, sticks, seaweed, and any other simple treasures I could find.
I remember standing on the seashore, watching sailboats skim across the rollicking waves, squinting against the sun as I tried to make out the figures on the ship. But no matter how hard I looked, they always remained elusive silhouettes gliding onto an unknown destination.
As a final “hurrah” before I left for college, my 21-year-old cousin Brittney and I visited a favorite old spot of ours – a pottery painting studio. (Admittedly, we are not the wild ones in the family.) This was a chance for us to talk and have fun, but it also served a practical purpose – I needed a mug.
For weeks, the thought of college hasn’t left my mind. Over and over, I imagined transforming my dorm room into a comfy living space, sitting in my first class, poring over books and notes at the coffee shop, confidently walking around campus with an armful of books…I spent hours lying on my bed, propped up on my elbows, browsing Pinterest for tips for college freshmen and researching the different organizations on campus. I have been wildly anticipating this and can’t wait strike out on my own, try new things, and meet new people.
However, there is a “sweet sorrow” in parting (to quote Mr. Shakespeare). I wanted my mug to remind me of home, too, and bring me back to this very moment, sitting with my cousin, two young adults looking hopefully into the future.
It’s no surprise that I immediately thought of the beach. What did surprise me was the phrase that popped into my head: Drop Anchor or Set Sail?
There is a point in our lives where we all need to ask ourselves that. Do I stay where I’m comfortable and content? Or do I lift the anchor and sail off to a new adventure? That was what I constantly asked myself during senior year. It was never a serious question, though. I knew that I wanted something different. I wanted to go where I didn’t know anybody and would be forced out of my comfort zone, where I could learn about myself and plan for my future without anybody expecting anything of me.
I also painted a quote inside the rim from one of my favorite authors, Louisa May Alcott: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail…” (emphasis added).
I’m so wrapped up in fantasies, it’s hard to remember that I will inevitably make mistakes. Once, I saw a boat catch on fire. I watched people leap from the vessel as it belched black smoke into the serene June sky. Those people might not have made it to their intended destination, but they were safe. And that boat definitely never sailed again, but I still remember it, years later, when countless other ships have sailed (pun intended) out of my mind. Mistakes (obviously) are unpleasant and unwanted. But I’m learning. I’m learning about journalism and science and math, obviously, but, more importantly, I’m learning about myself. I’m learning how to live on my own. (Financially supported by my parents, that is.)
I have no idea what the next four years hold for me, let alone what I’ll do after I get my diploma. Statistics imply that I will change my major (perhaps multiple times) and end up in a job that has nothing to do with my degree anyway.
Maybe I’ll sink in a dazzling bonfire. Maybe I’ll find refuge on an exotic shore, unscathed and fabulously tan (hey, a girl can dream!). Whatever happens, I know that it will be an adventure.
Lift the anchor! I’m ready to set sail.