Sacramento was my bubble, it was all I really knew. My life was school, having fun with friends, and large Filipino family functions—a weekly ritual that involved eating, gabbing, and more eating, celebrating any occasion from birthdays to National Pancake Day. It was a lifestyle of comfort and familiarity. So, why would I leave home and go away to college? Curiosity—there was a part of me that wanted to explore outside of my boundaries. I also saw myself as those characters in teen movies where they leave home for college and start their journey to “adulthood”, but like most of those teen flicks, they rarely depict the difficulty of adjusting to being away from home. Out of the California State Universities that granted me admissions, I chose Chico State. Before there were smartphones, MapQuest showed Chico to be two hours away from Sacramento—an hour and twenty with a lead foot—it was far enough to test the boundaries of independence, but close enough to come home if needed.
On Move-In Day, my parents drove me up to Chico helping me with the move. I was so excited that I kept offering to my dad to drive—MapQuest calculated for HIS type of driving. Two hours later, we pulled up to the building; there were so many students moving in, it looked like a bunch of ants carrying food into an anthill. As we brought up the last of my belongings to my dorm room, my mother began to tear. It was like I was reliving my first day of kindergarten, and my mom couldn’t come to terms that her baby boy—her youngest— was growing up. She held me tight and insisted that I call everyday, while my dad offered me extra cash and words of caution, “Stay out of trouble.” I walked them down to their car and we said our “goodbyes”. Standing outside Whitney Hall—the place where I would be living for a year— watching my parents vanish in the distance, at that moment, I realized that I was by myself—in a foreign place and gone were the confronts of home. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was scared.
My first week I felt like a fish-out-of-water. I was one out of a hundred and thirty in auditorium-size classrooms; something I wasn’t accustomed to. I rarely hung out with my roommate—different schedules, different interests, he found support through a Fraternity. Everyone living on my floor was living with someone they already knew. They could support each other when meeting people, if they needed. I wasn’t so fortunate. As my first week was coming to an end, my mom called asking if I wanted to come home for the weekend. I felt relieved, desperately needing a fix of familiar, I asked my dad to pick me up. Even though I was living away from home, I was still relying on my parents for help—a great start on the road to independency. I thought, “I’ll go home, lick my wounds and regroup, I’ll mark my first week of college a ‘Mulligan,’ I’ll come back ready for a do-over.”
My inability to adjust to my new surroundings led me to multiple false-starts. Every other weekend became a trend; my dad picking me up and me driving back to Sac. After my weekend retreat, I’d catch up with some of the fellas who lived on my floor. They would tell me about their weekend shenanigans, meeting new people, I could sense that they were bonding and becoming more comfortable with being away from home— I was jealous. They went through the same struggles as I did (some living more than two-hours away), but they made the adjustments that for the life of me, I hadn’t figured out yet. While they were embracing the new, I was still holding on to the old, and something had to change or this exploration would be over. I knew that home would always be there for me, if I ever needed, but before making that call, I would have to put forth a real honest effort at being on my own. I quit Sac cold turkey for the rest of the semester; testing myself week after week. It was difficult at first, but I started to settle in the longer I stayed in Chico. I stopped using Sacramento as an escape. I was finally comfortable being away from home, being on my own, living in Chico; later, tacking on a few more years.
Going away to college isn’t easy for most—it was a huge leap for me, but the moment I stopped fearing that I would lose my Sacramento life, I started adding elements of my new one into it—finding balance between the two. Doing so, taught me to be a confidant adult and made my college career a rewarding experience. Because I made the adjustments and stayed, I made life-long relationships, lasting memories, ate a few dozen Jiffy Burgers (Google it) and I found a second home in Chico.