by Madeleine Arnold
They say there is only one constant in life, and that’s change. I don’t know who they are, but I’d say they are mostly right. Life is ever-changing, and that is the way it is meant to be. With the end of my first semester at college approaching, I’ve been reflecting on all of the major life changes this past year. Moving out and starting college was a big one. I remember eagerly anticipating the semester-long slumber party, the campus life, the new classes, the new people. Everything would be very new and very exciting. But with the adventures and seemingly freeing independence I knew would come the hard work, the late night cramming sessions before exams, the inordinate amount of stress, the major life decisions, the trying to act like and be the adult I know I’m really not, the laundry. Most of all, there was the being away from home and family. That hit me hardest of all.
As we dive into the holiday season, I’ve been thinking a lot about family. I recently reflected on an experience almost exactly one year ago when I was knee-deep in college applications and that whirlwind called my senior year. It was the beginning of December. My little brother Jack and I were driving through the canyon, headed home through a beautiful snow-dusted world. With the sun already down, everything looked grey like an old black and white movie. We marveled at the fresh powder and wished we were on the slopes. Our conversation quickly turned from discussing how awesome it would be to be skiing to how excited we were for Christmas. It was a forty minute drive, and somewhere along the way, we ended up talking about me going off to college. He begged me to come home often to check him out of school and take him skiing. I jokingly promised to if he promised not to steal my room when I moved out. This deal seemed like a win for us both, so we agreed on it.
Amid the jokes and laughter, I looked over at Jack and suddenly felt choked up. I imagined not being there at his soccer games. I wouldn’t be there to see him when he walked in the door from school every afternoon. I wouldn’t be there every single Sunday after church when he made himself four servings of Top Ramen and ate it out of a serving bowl. I wouldn’t be there to tease him about cute girls in his class. I wouldn’t be there on Drew’s first day of high school, and I wouldn’t be there to jam out to High School Musical with little Sophie on a daily basis. I’d miss out on family inside jokes. And my parents. My dad wouldn’t be there for comic relief, and my mom wouldn’t be there to offer wisdom on the most stressful of days. Of course I’d most likely be thirty minutes or a phone call away. I was surely overreacting, but there was no denying that college would change things.
I quickly switched the radio from the station playing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” That song was not helping as I tried to collect myself and regain my composure before Jack noticed something was wrong. I tried to shake it off, but to no avail. The song “Photograph” began to play in the background, and when I heard the line, “wait for me to come home,” I totally lost it. Ridiculous, cliche, cheesy, embarrassing. I know. The rain came so heavily that my windshield wipers could hardly keep up. My tears came in the same way.
Looking ahead, the world was grey, the road unclear.
Ashamed of my inability to control my emotions that I’m sure frightened and confused eleven-year-old Jack, I kept my eyes and focus forward on the road. Then something sweet happened. He turned to me, smiled slightly, and reached his arm out to comfort me. He didn’t say a word and he didn’t need to. We sat there in silence as “Photograph” played quietly in the background.
At home that night as we knelt for family prayer, I looked around at each member of my family and felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. For just a moment, all of my worries went away and everything in my little world was right. We would all grow up, go our separate ways, but forever cling to moments like these. And I knew that when I would come home, mom would still make sure I was keeping up with my homework. Dad would still tell his “dad jokes” and I would still laugh. Drew and I would probably still disagree on what music to play in the car. Things might be different now that I’m away, but some things never change. Family is one of those constants for me.
This first semester of college, I’ve learned that when life is uncertain, when the road ahead is unclear, even new and scary, they’re my rock. They say that change is life’s only constant, but I’d add to that family. So when everything around you seems very uncertain, one of the best pieces of advice I can offer is turn to your family and others who love you. Let those people be your rock.
My family is undoubtedly one of my greatest blessings. They may not be down the hall anymore, but they’ll always be close in my heart. I might be growing up and moving on, but I’m stuck with these people for forever. Boy am I lucky.
Lots of love,