The recent announcement that campus should return to near normal in the fall provided me with a sense of hope that has been unfamiliar to me in the past year. The fog finally seems to be lifting as people get vaccinated and things open up again. I’ve been thinking about all the things I’m looking forward to doing once restrictions have eased up.
The main thing is getting out of my hometown. I’ve never felt a connection to where I grew up. In fact, I always find myself baffled by people who attend college in — and ultimately end up working and living in — the very place they’ve known since childhood.
It’s not that I hate my hometown; it’s your average small town. There’s a friendly community, low crime rates and plenty of opportunities for a career in agriculture. The problem for me is that I’ve always felt limited by it. When you live in a town where the only fun thing to do is go to McDonald’s, your high school has only about 600 students and the best places to find a job tend to be over 30 minutes away, you start to wonder just how much you’re missing out on.
For me, Baltimore symbolizes a chance for growth; I can immerse myself in a place so unlike the one I’ve known my whole life. It’s a chance to reinvent myself and have a fresh start.
If nothing else, one thing the pandemic has afforded me is the time to think about my future. While I don’t know exactly where my future lies, spending my entire freshman year at home has only intensified my desire to escape.
The thought of leaving does fuel some anxieties, however. For as long as I can remember, I have always held an “anywhere but here” mentality regarding my future; I fear that it will set me up for disappointment. I’ve spent so much time dreaming of city life, I worry that I’ve glamorized it so much that the real thing will fall far short of my expectations.
Additionally, the idea of being out on my own in a world full of unfamiliarity both excites and scares me. Besides some fellow students at Hopkins, I don’t know anyone in Baltimore. I’ve never had the big city experience in my life. While my family will be at home nearly 600 miles away, I’ll be in new territory trying to make it as an adult. That requires a level of independence I’ve never needed before. I feel like I’m stuck between being tired of familiarity and fearful of unfamiliarity.
I don’t want fear to scare me off of my dreams, though, which is why I’ve realized I need to take steps toward easing my anxieties. Staying in my comfort zone is an issue I’ve always struggled with, and this summer is the perfect time to start inching out of it.
In the coming months, I’m going to make a strong effort to stay connected with my peers, especially the ones to whom I can relate. It’s been easy to slack off in the “making friends” department this year, and being social has never been one of my personality traits. But it’s less scary to think of navigating a new city with supportive friends to stay by my side and keep me grounded.
Something else I want to do is take some time to find things about my town that I’ll miss and cherish. While we’ve never had a great relationship, I don’t want to abandon my roots completely and forget where I come from. I’ve met great people and spent my formative years here; I can’t throw all of it away. Taking time to appreciate the little things and enjoy time with the people I love here will hopefully provide me with the strength I need to move on.
In this pandemic, looking to the future has been a source of stress, but I’ve realized it can also be a source of hope. We’re reaching a point where we can start to afford to dream again. While I do have worries about where my journey through Hopkins will take me, if I stay true to myself and find sources of strength and community, I know I can handle whatever comes my way.
Shelby York is a freshman from Owenton, Ky. majoring in Writing Seminars. She is a copy reader for The News-Letter.