Dear College Station,
I was supposed to write this letter on my flight out on Thursday. I was going to use the time spent traveling through the inbetween space to sort through the misgivings and apprehension that come from going back to a place I used to call home. Did you know, it’ll be three years in DC this month? The last place I spent that much time prior to this was college.
Hannah graduated this weekend. I don’t really remember my own graduation. I think I snuck a book in under my graduation gown and read until they called my name. That whole day was a blur. What I do remember, however, is lying in bed that night after everyone had gone home and staring at the ceiling fan and having this feeling like the world was too big and I was too small and calling my mom because I was scared. I had waited for this moment for so long and now it was here and I was certain that I could not handle it.
This time of year always feels odd for me, with people posting about the last four years, how grateful they are, how sad they are to be moving on. I had a perfectly ordinary four years in college. I got ordinary grades and had ordinary adventures. I don’t really miss it. What I remember most from those four years is the time I spent waiting: for my life to start, to fall in love, for someone to give me permission to be bold and loud and fearless.
The Good Type prompt for last week was to hand letter advice you’d give your younger self. I wanted to say something about fear and courage and bravery because, when I look back at high school and college Madelyne, the overwhelming thing I wish I would’ve done differently is just be less afraid. I tried to keep my expectations and my dreams small. I was afraid to hope for big, grand things because I was afraid of failing. I tried not to want anything I couldn’t make or work for or build with my own two hands.
But that’s such a broad–and cliche–thing. And fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The most meaningful experiences, the best adventures, the wildest stories, have come from when I’ve been terrified. I wish I wouldn’t have been so afraid of failing.
Because, in spite of that fear, I failed anyways. I wish someone had told me that. You’re going to fail, that’s inevitable. You’re going to make mistakes and go down the wrong path and have to backtrack and start again. No amount of waiting or risk management will prevent this. Stop fighting and fail with abandon.
I did miss you, College Station. It’s Sunday and I’m flying back to DC.
After the graduation, Katie and Chad and I were driving back to the house with the kids. For them, it’s been over a decade and three kids since they met as freshman. They kept trying to tell stories and Addison kept interrupting with the endings. “Stop me if I get it wrong,” she said, over and over.
I have plenty of stories, from my time at A&M and my years after. Some stories are big, like paddleboard surfing in a flash flood, and some stories are small, like drinking cold beer on the back porch of the Chicken on a hot day after class.
Lots of stuff has changed in five years. I like that the endings to these stories haven’t. I like that I get to come back and be a part of reliving them for the kids. I like that I had four ordinary years at a good school. Once, that felt like a failure. Now, I think it just made me ready for going out and having as many adventures as I could get my hands on.
Thanks & Gig ‘Em,