When you’re in high school people always tell you how bittersweet it’ll be when you graduate and all your friends spread out to different colleges. It’ll be a shock, they say, but you’ll get used to it!
Here’s what they don’t tell you: it never stops happening. You’ll pack your bags and go to college and meet a whole new group of people and fall in love and then in four years it starts all over again. But this time instead of just moving across the state your best friend is moving to Florida to intern at Disney to become a real kind-of adult, and your other friends are getting jobs or getting married and you- you’re still on the phone with your mother entirely too often. What do you do when everyone around you is growing up and you feel like you’re staying the same?
I’ve already announced to you guys that I’m studying abroad for half a year in New Zealand. And I explained a lot of the reasons why, but there’s something that I left out, and it’s only become more and more clear to me in these last few weeks. I also did it because I’m afraid of being left behind.
Two of my closest friends here at school are graduating and moving away. My best friend since childhood, Kristen, is packing up and heading to Florida for seven months to work at Disneyworld. And Jon is moving, too, out to LA, where every film student has to spend at least a few years sitting in traffic and making big choices. I’m so happy for all of them, and so lucky to be involved in each of their lives. I can’t wait for all of the crazy, fantastic things that will happen to every one of them.
But can you blame me for not wanting to stay put? I was afraid of the emptiness that would confront me in all of our old places. I didn’t want my two most important people to leave. Jon is the person that I talked to every day and spent all my time with and is currently my closest friend in the world. And I met Kristen in kindergarten and for the next sixteen years we have been inseparable. So maybe it’s that left-behind feeling that I’m running from, too.
This may not be the most conventional post. The truth is, my Crohn’s has sort of fallen to the back of my mind recently with everything else that’s going on. Still, even when I don’t feel like I have the time to deal with it, my disease doesn’t leave me alone. It crops up in different ways and is always affecting my life. This is a blog dedicated to the ways that I deal with this illness and try to stay positive in my life, but currently my Crohn’s is not the thing that’s keeping me from feeling positive. Right now I’m just scared of how much I miss my friends and my old life in Austin.
So. This past month. Where do I begin?
It’s been a good month, don’t get me wrong, but a hard one- it’s kind of like May was the end of everything. I can’t tell the whole story because every time I’ve tried it’s just been too impossible. I’m not even sure what the whole story is. I do know that I want to be honest with you all, that this blog and getting to connect with people and sometimes help them through my writing it is one of the things that makes me happiest. So this may not be all about Crohn’s, but I hope you can still connect to it. I hope it still helps you. And I hope it helps me to write it.
Since I can’t possibly tell the whole story of this month, I will share some of the moments that meant a lot to me. The ones that, for one reason or another, are really staying in my brain. Hopefully they’ll communicate everything else.
The first is about packing up Jon’s apartment, the place that my friends and I had spent the majority of our time for the past year. We stayed up all night putting his stuff away into boxes, and the next day the movers came and loaded them up in a Uhaul. Once the apartment was all cleared out Jon and I stood in the empty front room and I wept. It sounds strange, but everything looked so small. I was sick with the memories the place held- the miniature Christmas tree we had put up in the corner and almost killed because Jon and I both didn’t realize it needed water, the table we all stood around joking with each other at parties, the window that always glowed red and green from the illumination of the Papa’s John’s sign across the street. That apartment was our headquarters for the year, it’s where we always met up before heading out to do anything. One glance around the carpeted floor brought back the image of all of my friends, draped across Jon’s enormous throw pillows, watching a movie and setting up a game, or talking late into the night.
Out of all of the tough moments that May brought, saying goodbye to that apartment was the one that broke my heart the most. Locking that place up for the last time really did feel like the end of everything, like I was packaging up my whole year, my whole group of friends, and turning in the key.
Then there was a moment from Jon’s graduation- after the ceremony. The street was thick with people and trying to find each other was nearly impossible. When Jon, Luis, Tiernee and I finally met up there was only time for a few quick pictures in his cap and gown before Jon had to go. The day was mostly exciting and happy, so it came as a surprise to me when Luis grabbed Jon by the shoulders and, struggling to raise his voice over the crowd, said, “Jon, is this the last time I’m ever going to see you, forever?” The two boys were smiling, but my stomach dropped as I realized I didn’t know the next time the four of us would all be together again.
After Jon graduated we had the long drive to California ahead of us. There’s a moment from that road trip that really sticks with me, though I’m not sure why because it wasn’t terribly significant. We had stopped at a Walgreens in El Paso so I could load up on more tissues and cough drops, and we were out in the evening air, stretching our legs and trying to decide where to stop for the night. The sun was getting close to setting, and I was looking out across the highway as the neon signs began to flick on. Jon was on the phone with his new apartment trying to figure out a good time to pick up his keys, and this feeling came over me. Something like gratitude- I couldn’t believe how incredible it was to just get in a car and drive, and to find myself in a brand new place, somewhere I’d never been before. How easy it was to change my whole life if I wanted, to go somewhere or be something different. And how glad I was to be able to experience that with my best friend beside me.
I can remember the feeling I had when I flew back to Houston the day after we arrived in LA. The panic that gripped me when I looked out the window as my flight took off and realized that Jon was somewhere out there in that city, by himself, and I was headed in the opposite direction. It was as if some part of me was stuck to the ground while the rest of me kept ascending- pulling, pulling, a great overwhelming pain, and then relief.
Right after I landed I was scheduled to start prep for a colonoscopy. The thing about this month was that everything was happening on top of everything else- there was just no time to do it any other way. I spent a sleepless night worrying about Jon and rushing back and forth from my bed to the toilet. By the time my mom and I arrived at the hospital my stomach was in knots and I was ready to be knocked out. I remember being taken into a room and hooked up to all sorts of machines. Oxygen was being supplied through my nose, and my heart rate was being monitored. I heard the familiar countdown from the anesthesiologist and then, for the first time in a long time, I felt myself drifting peacefully off to sleep, no dreams.
That surgery was one week ago. Since then it’s been a blur of rehearsal, recovery, and reruns of Survivor. Thankfully the doctors didn’t find anything alarming in my colon or small intestine, so my colonoscopy checked out and I won’t have to get another one for a while. So that’s one thing that I don’t have to worry about.
As for the list of things that I do worry about, it seems like it just keeps growing. I know some of it is out of my hands- but I can worry. And I will. And I can hope that the people I love are happy. I will.
It was a great year in Austin. Maybe the best. Definitely the most exciting. I worked hard in my acting program, and now I’m preparing to go to LA for ten days to audition for agents and managers. I met my weight goal for Operation Five by Finals (thanks to my friends and all of you.) I fell in love. I made amazing friends and did everything under the sun with them. When I look back on my college years, I’m sure these will be the times that I remember. So thank you to Jon, Tiernee, Luis, Way, Krissy, and Marshall. Thank you to everyone who made my year what it was. But goodbye to everything being just the way I remember it. I know it’s time for things to change.
I miss everything already. I’m so scared to leave for New Zealand at the end of this month. I miss my roommates, and I miss watching my friends play all the board games I always hated. But I’m trying to stay wide open. I’m trying to learn from how much I miss everyone already.
This is what I know right now. Love people hard, love them all you want, but let them go away from you. Love them from far away if you have to. It’s okay. And let yourself go, too. Friendship, family, all those bonds that keep me breathing- they can still cross oceans. It’s okay to go.