Finally,” I thought “No more class. I can just relax before I have to drag myself to work.” Like any other college student, I had been anticipating the weekend. No more class, no more lectures, just me, my music, and my bed. Swiftly, I jumped onto my lofted bed, propped open my laptop and turned on Daniel Caesar. Next, I quickly pulled my throw blanket over me. Under my blanket, I closed my eyes and dissolved all my thoughts so I could focus on the music.
“What? Uh huh… yeah sure,” Ashleigh, my roommate, uttered into her phone as she slipped into the room.
With each word she spoke, my barrier of placidity slowly dissolved until only I laid there desperately trying to regain my tranquility. Lying there made me think of the good ole days when I had my own room and could keep it as peaceful as I desired. I missed being nearly the only person with authority over what happened in my space. After a few minutes, she finally turned and looked at me. “Hey, did you want to go to the beach after you come back from work today? T’ambra’s boss gave her tickets for a club’s anniversary so we can go there on Saturday night too. I didn’t know if you wanted to come or not, but I am going to go,” Ashleigh questioned. A trip sounded amusing, and I needed more fun in my life. Since arriving, I had found myself complaining about not experiencing much and only staying in my room. Now was my chance to have a fun new experience. Quickly, I tried to think of all the reasons why I should not go. Homework came to mind, as well as sleep and the fact that I loathe beaches, but I could not really think of anything else. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to,” Ashleigh offered.
“No, I want to. It’s not like I have anything better to do,” I admitted.
“Okay, great. We will leave when you come back from work” Ashleigh declared. As Ashleigh returned to her phone conversation I glanced at the time. Unfortunately, I had to leave for work. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and set out to the Telefund. Once I returned from work, I found Ashleigh packing for the trip and I began to pack too.
“Hey, did you want to text your mom that we were going to Florida?” Ashleigh asked. I stared at her baffled. Florida? I assumed we would be in another town in Georgia. “Oh, sorry. I keep forgetting you are not from here. Yeah, the beach is in Florida.” Ashleigh stated. Telling my mom sounded like the right thing to do, but I had a strong feeling that she would not approve. I could already see how the conversation would go.
“Hey, mom. Can I go on a road trip to another state in a car full of strangers so I can go to the club tomorrow?”.
“Ha, oh lord Faith. Why would you want to do that? You have homework you should be doing. You do not know these people or their parents and neither do I. You have no phone. What if someone is trying to kill you? How are you going to call me? Are there going to be boys? And why do you want to go to the club? Remember Jesus and school come first,” my mom would blurt with her Congolese accent.
“So…I cant go?”.
“I don’t have time for this faith, tsk” she would retort before hanging up on me. I made a rational decision; my mom did not need to know.
“No, my mom’s probably really busy. I will just email her later,” I affirmed to Ashleighy. Part of my reasoning behind leaving the state for college was that I would have more autonomy. I wanted to make decisions for myself without the influence of my mom, and that is exactly what I did. After we finished packing we left the Plex to meet Ashleigh’s friends downstairs.
Once we finally squished our bags into the back of the tiny white Honda Accord, we disembarked on our journey. Three other people accompanied us on our trip: T’ambra, Ashleigh’s friend from high school, Jay, T’ambra’s godsister, and Trey, T’ambra’s younger brother. Previously I had met T’ambra, but I did not know anyone else in the car.
“You’re quiet Faith” Jay observed, “are we to ratchet for you?” They were not too ratchet for me, I just did not know them and had never been in this environment before. They seemed like genuinely nice people, but I could not relate to them. While I do admit that I have been in unusual situations before, they were not like the ones in what they described as their ratchet small town. Especially since I spent most of my life in towns with mostly upper-middle-class conservative Christians. Instead of talking, I laughed along at their stories and listened to the mix of gospel and hip-hop music blasting from the car stereo.
After five long hours squished in the tiny car, we arrived in Panama City. Immediately after we checked into the hotel, we went to Walmart to buy food.
We purchased food that we never ended up cooking and eventually returned. Once we returned to the hotel, we spent the rest of the night having our own dance party until we all started falling asleep.
The next day, Ashleigh’s dad, who was in Destin, invited us to eat dinner with him and his family to celebrate Ashleigh’s little sister Aubrey’s birthday. Before we went to dinner, we decided to go to the mall. On the way there, I got a better view of the city. Panama City reminded me of Galveston, Texas.
The shops and the pier reminded me of all the cute shops and Pleasure Pier in Galveston. In fact, I even saw a Whataburger, a Texas fast food restaurant, and I nearly screamed. I gladly embraced the feeling of nostalgia and let my memories of home slowly drift into my head. Nights spent on the beach with my friends and my drill team came first. This reminded me of Friday night lights in the stadium. I smiled at the thought of doing my drill team officer strut and doing high kicks on the field. Whataburger was always the move after games and I could not help thinking of all the nights I spent there after games and when I was an employee. I never really appreciated those moments back in high school. Accustomed to them, they just seemed like a part of life, and once they were taken away I appreciated them more.
Later that day, we arrived at the seafood restaurant Ashleigh’s family chose for dinner. Seeing the adorable little kids run around immediately made me think of my own little sister. Even though she drove me insane I still missed her. When Ashleigh’s sister ran to hug her, it reminded me of all the days I came home to find my sister, who was two at the time, running to the door eager to see me and ready for my embrace. Following dinner, we rushed back to the hotel to get ready to go to the club.
At the club, I did not like most of the songs the DJ played. In addition to all the sweat dripping off people’s backs, vomit appeared on the floor in corner of the club. To make matters worse, some creepy Jamaican guy would not stop harassing Jay. Despite this, I am glad I went because I had wanted to experience what it was like to go to a club. After an hour, we decided to leave.
On Sunday morning, we finally made it to the beach.
Unlike Galveston beach, this beach had blue water. Seagulls and butterfly flew around and seashells covered the sand. Unfortunately, trash also covered the sand. Dirty diapers, cigarette butts, and bottle caps were among my findings.
Despite the unsettling presence of trash, I did enjoy the beach. At one point a little girl swam up to us and asked if we had seen any mermaids. Before I could respond, her sister blurted, “mermaids aren’t real, stupid”. Although I am not a fan of beaches, I enjoyed taking the time to relax, something I was still struggling to do in my first few weeks of school.
Eventually, we had to leave so that I would get back to school in time for work.
“Only an hour and thirty minutes left,” T’ambra announced. This would leave me nearly two hours before I had to report to work. Satisfied, I stopped worrying.
“Clink, clink, clink,” screamed the car. Next one of the wheels started to wobble. We had to pull over.
“Really God? Not cool man, we were almost there,” I protested. On the outside, however, I maintained a sanguine façade. Unfortunately, we did not have a way to get off the road quickly. Internally, I prayed that someone would come help us so I could still make it to work. Suddenly an RV pulled up. “Finally! We are saved!” I thought. I thought wrong. It turns out the RV had a similar issue. After waiting for an hour, a man pulled up to help us. Once again, I was deceived. Sadly, the serviceman could not help us. As if I did not already have enough problems, my own body turned against me and kept complaining that it had to pee. Since we had exhausted all our options, we decided to wait for T’ambra’s parents to pick us up. While we waited for T’ambra’s parents to rescue us, we decide that we should try to get off the highway.
Shortly after we left the highway, we spotted a gas station. To our dismay, the gas station was no longer in service. Trey decided to change the messed-up tire. As soon as he finished, he took off in the car without us. Fortunately, after a nice phone call from his parents, he returned. Once he returned, we decided that we should try to get back to Emory. After turning on some gospel music, we took off hoping that we would not die.
Thankfully we made it back to school safely. Even though I missed work and had to pee behind the old gas station, I am glad I went on the trip. Although the trip did not end the way I had hoped, I still had a wonderful time. The trip made me more appreciative of what I left behind in Texas: a loving family and many wonderful experiences that I cannot find anywhere else. The whole trip made me realize that to some extent I did miss my family, friends and my life in high school. Despite some setbacks, I am glad that I made the decision to go on my own. As I stated previously, my purpose for leaving the state for school was to be more self-reliant. While I do not think it is a problem to get advice from my mom, I think it is time that I learn to do things with as little help from her as possible. Too often I find myself stopping myself from doing things because my mom would not like them. The problem with that is that my mother and I are very different and some things she sees unnecessary are things I enjoy doing.
This whole process forced me to think harder about what I expect to get out of my college experience and how I am going to go about doing it. Hopefully, more opportunities for me to venture outside of the Emory bubble will surprise me soon.