Prompt: “You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you travel to and why?”
A new president just gave their inauguration speech on the White House balcony, and I sit in a coffee shop watching the television in the corner. They seem confident, and everybody knows the chaos of the past election. This year began with a bang of the new presidency and by the end of the year, who knows where I will be. Actually, I do know. I will be at the college I chose just a few short months ago. Waking up in an unfamiliar room, but my very own room. Away from my parents, I finally will grow into the person I felt escaping senior year of high school and before. I scoop up my scattered highlighters and pens and shove them into my pencil case before tossing it all into my backpack. Tipping back my head to finish the last drops of my hot cocoa gone cold, I close my eyes and imagine I am already at college. Glorious freedom and endless expanses of dreams stretch before my closed eyelids. New friends collaged with old friends in the pictures around my own bathroom mirror. Classes actually leading me into the rest of my life. A career beckons me at the end of my college years, sure to fly by quicker than high school. Everything slides together like a perfect puzzle piece that missed the past 18 years of my puzzle pieced life. I open my eyes to see the dreams about to come true. I slide out of the booth, leave spare change on the table as a tip, and leave my dreams as dreams for now.
My toes squeeze themselves into the unfamiliar high heeled shoes my mom bought me the week before. “They’ll make your legs look longer,” she said as she delivered the black, velvet shoes into my hands. I pull the straps tight and straighten myself to stand tall in front of my mirror. The red cap and gold cord glisten on my closet door as the afternoon sun slants through my bedroom windows. I zip the matching red gown up and re-adjust it so no creases show. A picture of Grandma and Grandpa Hrobsky dancing at my parent’s wedding catches my eye above my desk. Taking a step to the side in order to touch the image, I linger in the past and wish they could be waiting at the bottom of the stairs. “Charley, come on. Can’t be late for your own graduation,” my father’s voice booms from the bottom of the staircase. My mother’s and sister’s voices murmur in the background. Glancing a final time at my grandparent’s image, then in the mirror, I stop. Graduation night finally arrived. My entire life looked to this moment. The pile of summer workbooks, hours of volunteering, friendships, AP exams, notes, tests, tears, and lost sleep. Everything pointed to this precise moment. Reaching behind me to close my bedroom door, I take a deep breath to hold back the nostalgic tears. I’m closing the door on my past, my childhood, and solely looking towards my future, my dreams.
Four months into my dream, and college still does not feel real to me. How can my dream finally come true? My bright pink suitcase click-clacks down the tiled hallway bursting at the seam with clothes to wear in the month I will be home. Friends stop me in the hallway every five feet to talk about their upcoming holiday plans, and I listen, as they know I will do. Gaining new friends at college allows me to step outside my comfort zone everyday, unlike my high school self. College allowed me to evolve into an entirely different person. It allowed me to reinvent myself, to grow into myself. My phone buzzes before I reach the cold outdoors piled with snow. Sliding my hand into my back pocket to grab my phone, I sneak a glance around the common area in the dorms and smile as I recite everybody’s names in my head. Never in my life have I felt so comfortable with who I am. Looking at the text message, I see my roommate’s last minute question about how to close up our room and reply. I slide my phone back into my pocket and step outside into the quiet outdoors to walk the short distance to my snow-covered, parked car. Before piling my baggage into the trunk of my SUV, I turn on the car’s heat. When everything sits inside the trunk, I slide into the driver’s seat and pull out of the parking space. Glancing in the rearview mirror, I see my college, my community, and my dream come true grow smaller.