Don’t pack your bags before you have even unpacked

Jackie Valley

A nearby beach. Pretty city streets with elegant architecture. And a massive St. Patrick’s Day celebration every year.

Better yet, its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means winter temperature highs in the 60s and lows only in the upper 30s.

It sounds like paradise to me. That’s why I added Savannah, Ga., to my potential future home list a few months ago. True, I have never actually been to Savannah or the state of Georgia for that matter, but I did my research.

Consequently, I came to the conclusion that British Gen. James Oglethorpe, who first settled there in 1733, was a pretty smart guy.

Why do I know all this about a city more than 700 miles away from Kent?

Because I tend to be ZIP code antsy. I moved several times growing up, so the thought of staying in one place forever seems unnatural. At first, four years at Kent State seemed like a long time.

But then, a grim reality dawned on me recently: I will be graduating college in two years. I will be on my own, entering the workforce and leaving Kent.

Suddenly, I have cold feet – and not just because I live in Ohio where temperatures can dip unexpectedly during summer.

I’m not ready to be done with college. I’m not even ready to be halfway through college. But, sadly, I am.

Everyone says to savor your college days because they will be the “best four years of your life,” and they will go by quick. Believe those people. It’s true.

It’s true because college is an evolutionary time period, marked by initial fears and then full-force euphoria. You don’t normally hit your stride in college until the end of your sophomore year.

You spend your freshman year adjusting to being out of high school, and for some, being away from home. You make friends. You join campus organizations. You lose friends. Then you make more new friends.

By the time second semester of sophomore year rolls around, you have your posse of lifelong college pals and you’re beginning to become immersed in classes for your major. You’re not 21 years old yet, but otherwise, life is grand.

Before you know it, the first week of May hits. Suddenly, those hometown friends you could not wait to see after freshman year seem a little more distant. You delay moving out after exams until Residence Services threatens to evict you.

Then you spend the summer between your sophomore and junior year counting down the days until you can move back to Kent, perhaps into a new apartment. It’s almost a guaranteed scenario.

Now as I enter year three of college, I am acutely aware that my days in Kent are numbered until I graduate and head to the beach – or wherever else life leads me first. And this perplexes me.

I’m a dreamer by nature. My mind tends to wander to the future more often than it should, wondering what life will be like after I graduate high school, after I graduate college and after I enter the workforce.

Luckily, one of my best friends since middle school recently brought me back to reality while predicting our future joint family Thanksgiving dinners.

“Your kids will be coloring on the floor while you, oblivious to it all, try to assess the damage done to the turkey after accidentally burning it in the oven,” she prophesied.

That one terrifying prophecy is all it took to curb my future-harping tendencies. Kent may not be my sunny oasis, but it’s my home – and it’s a home with a clear expiration date.

Before you know it, you’ll be entering your junior year also. I just hope you’ll be entering it without the mindset of having hurried away the previous two years. Your time in college is precious. Don’t wish it away waiting for the future to arrive.

Contact forum editor Jackie Valley at [email protected].