Go west young man….
Leaving home for whatever reason can be a hard thing to do. This week, many young 17- and 18-year-olds will be leaving the comforts of home to venture into their next chapter in life at a college campus.
When I learned that most kids here left home at that age, I was very surprised. I grew up in a culture where most children -- especially the girls -- are not expected to move out of the home until they get married.
I was shocked when I first heard about how some parents here can't wait to have their children move out on their own. I soon realized that it was part of the culture here, and the kids looked forward to moving out.
My family is close knit. Most of my relatives live within the same city. When I made the decision to come to the United States to attend college, it was met with a lot of apprehension. I don't think I really understood the consequences of my decision. I made it with a sense of adventure of going to a different country, one that was glamorized through movies and TV shows.
I was accepted at five universities and picked the University of Missouri based on my desire to study journalism. I had no idea where Missouri was, nor did I care. To me, it would be just like all cool stuff I had seen in the movies.
It never dawned on me that I was going to be separated from my entire close-knit family circle that had been with me since I was born, literally. I was about to leave a strong support system that would be there for anything I needed, and go to a country where I didn't know a single soul or didn't speak the language well.
The day I left is still very fresh in my mind. I was excited to be going to America, the land of Dallas, the land of Disneyland, the land of Knight Rider, the land of Grease, the land of Saturday Night Fever, the land of... you get the picture.
My mom made my favorite breakfast and packed extra for a snack on the plane. Most of my relatives stopped by my house to wish me well. After all, I was the first one to leave the family circle, and would go half way across the world at that.
Everyone was wishing me well and saying their goodbyes, but my mind was still on the exciting journey I was going to take.
As my brothers packed my luggage in the car and the last round of goodbyes were being said, something hit me. I saw my mom in tears. My heart sank, and I choked up. Her firstborn was leaving her, and she didn't quite know how to deal with that. Remember, in that culture, it's very rare that the children leave home -- or the country for that matter -- at that young age. My mom was not prepared for this.
Then, I saw my dad in tears. A man who seldom cries, was also affected. It dawned on me what I was doing. In my pursuit of a dream, I was creating an emotional pain that had never been experienced before.
My family that I had taken for granted all these years, would not be around me anymore and I no longer would be a part of huge birthday parties or festivities. No more of mom's delicious cooking to savor. No more being able to visit a loved one if they had to go to the hospital. Life as I knew it was going to change drastically.
I started to wonder if I made the right decision. Was I caught in a fantasy or was this something I really wanted? That line was blurred at the moment.
My friends met me at the airport and there were about 60 people to see me off. Each one had a special memory. As I walked away into the terminal and saw the teary-eyed faces, I wanted to go back and call off the trip. I had never felt so alone as I did in those next few minutes.
Twenty years later, those memories remain fresh in my mind, but so do all the new memories I have made since being here.
While nothing can replace the close-knit family I have back home, I have made some wonderful friends, a family of my own and a new close-knit support system of family and friends.