So you’re flying to college. Or you’re flying anywhere alone, and you’re me. You charge your iPod and your computer and pack extra underwear and think about all the new people you’re going to meet in the next five hours. You think about smiling too much, laughing too hard, telling them you’re a concert pianist working on her third novel. (They’ll never know, right?) You don’t think you’ll miss your mom, but you think she’ll probably miss you, and you’re excited because the airport you’re going to has delicious breakfast burritos.
Of course when you get past security, past your waving parents and sister and dog, you head for the burritos, and you’re number 40. “33,” the lady calls. Well, that’s not…so bad. “35. 36. 38.” Progress! “37.” No. No. Not BACKWARDS. “34.” WRONG DIRECTION. You head closer to the stand and stare at the lady’s name tag, mentally willing Angela’s almost nonexistant hair to set on fire. That’s when you see the warning. “NO GELS OR LIQUIDS MAY BE BROUGHT ON ANY AIRCRAFT.”
It is impossible for you to eat this burrito without ketchup, and Angela, head ablaze, is laughing maniacally.
Another lady comes up to the counter with a bag. “42.” Of course.
“44. 43.” “45.”
What if your plane left? What if you missed it already? What if the pilot thought the boarding time was actually the takeoff time? You just turned 18, so you don’t get any of the fun privileges of unaccompanied minors, and regardless of your age they won’t wait for you and your burrito. Especially with ketchup. You see a long line of people and feel slightly less unnerved, but can’t properly see the gate number, so no luck there.
“40!” THANK YOU, ANGELA.
Of course when you get on the plane (through a gate next to the line of people that was nearly empty), after practically inhaling the burrito (for which you did not have enough ketchup, ketchup they did not take away), you remember you checked your iPod, and you can’t find your boarding pass. Ordinarily it wouldn’t matter, but traffic was horrible and your hair was terrible when you woke up today so you were just borderline late, so you’re pretty sure they put your baggage on the next flight, and you’re going to need the boarding pass to prove you had two bags. After sticking one of your gigantic carry-ons into the opposite overhead compartment, you have to get up to check it again, and you’re pretty sure that everyone else, including the people going to the same college you are, is aware of the late girl with the crazy hair in 7D.
(At least you HAVE hair for them to set on fire.)
And of course once you put it back you realize you were sitting on it. And of course the air conditioning is on while you’re sleeping, and your nose is absolutely frozen when you wake up before you should have (but of course, after the free food service), to the sound of shrieking – at which point you realize that kid, the one baby that everyone else is also hoping will get bitten by a snake on this plane, is sitting in the window seat next to you.
So what do you do?
You sit and write about it. Or you just sit and think about it, and feel your nose slowly sliding off your face. Mostly, you miss your mother and wonder if you have enough underwear and know for a fact that those two other people going to the college you are on this plane will tell everyone you’re clearly not a novelist/concert pianist, and you feel frightened and anxious and terrified down through to your bones. You remember that aside from meeting 4,000+ new faces you’re going for school, and you’re terrified that everyone will know how to run a database while integrating a Taylor polynomial and the stages of mitosis when all you can remember is 8th grade geometry and the Pythagorean Theorem.
And I wish I could tell you that you will be okay, that you will eventually adjust and you will soon be something other than an awkward wide-eyed college frosh and people will be nice to you even though they think you have terrible hair. I wish I could tell you this is the start of something great, and you will inevitably change but inevitably for the better, and that even though you’re leaving a place where you knew everything and everyone for a place where you know nothing and no one you will be better for it. I would tell you not to be so scared, if I could. But I’m just a ketchupless freshman in 7D getting her chair kicked by the four-year-old in 7F. What do I know?