It's a scene out of a college brochure: 20 of us sitting underneath a large oak tree on a beautiful green campus, with brick buildings covered in ivy as a backdrop. We're discussing Siddhartha, or at least 19 of us are.
I am desperately willing myself not to start crying.
I'm so homesick that thoughts of my house, my bed, my dog, my mom and dad, my boyfriend, even my clothes-stealing-sister wash over me in waves. I will myself to choke back the lump in my throat, and to nod attentively when it seemed appropriate.
I was 17 years old, and it was my 2nd day out of a 3 week stay at a camp in Boston and I was miserably homesick.
The feeling passed, of course, and the experience went on to be one of the highlights of my teenage years. It did everything that a life-changing cliché experience is supposed to do: pushed me past my comfort zone. Stretched my confidence. Made new friends. Appreciated the life I had. Learned to embrace change.
Ok, scratch that last one. There are some people who run downhill open-armed at change and embrace it with the ferocity of seeing an old friend. Then there are people like me, who threw a fit at 8 years old about going to Hawaii.... because it meant not going to the same condo in Myrtle Beach we had gone to for the 7 prior years of my life.
I like routines. I like going to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time. Running on the same days. Seeing the same people. Buying the same groceries. I thrive in patterns, in predictability and consistency.
Change, of course, is constant and good for you and something I've forced myself to get used to because you have to. Like eating broccoli and cleaning the pink mold out of toilet, you just accept that it's something you better do.
My experience at nerd camp armed me so when the same tidal waves of homesickness hit me my first week of college, I steeled myself with the knowledge they would past. When I moved to Durham for an internship by myself. To Spain. To Baltimore, for grad school. Every big change in my life has been marked by the same pattern: excitement as the event approaches, dread the moment I arrive, doubt as I sink into it, fear that I've made a mistake and I'll never be happy again, and patience to know that feeling will pass.
It always passes, and the new experience is everything that new experiences are meant to be. Even Hawaii was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.
It's been almost two weeks of working my new job, and while I'm past the first-day-jitters, I'm still sort of bobbing along somewhere in between doubt and patience. With each experience and with maturity has come the recognition that, by virtue of being in charge of my thoughts, I'm also in charge of how quickly I move through each stage of the change. It's hard to leave comfort, predictability and routine behind - even when it really wasn't working for you anymore.
Fortunately, I now know that my days under the oak tree fighting off my longing for what's familiar will be numbered, and in a matter of days, weeks or maybe even months, I'll be settled in and wondering what all that fuss was about anyways.