As I struggled to carry my suitcases down the crowded halls of O’Hare on August 24th, I thought I knew what was coming. I envisioned this day beforehand.

In my mind, I had mapped out the very minutes my life would change. I’ll just walk out of my house, enter the car with my mom, drive down the highway for the following hour, march through the sliding doors easily, say my goodbyes (hopefully without crying), and sit at my gate to plan out how I would get over my anxiety of flying.

Too bad maps are arbitrary.

God leaves these little paper towns within our ideals to remind us that we still deserve to experience surprises, and to embrace a story all our own, unplanned.

Instead of gliding, I straggled my red bag through the front doors, later appropriately labeled BIG LUGGAGE at the Help Desk, and eventually traveled through security, making it to Gate 18 only 40 minutes before my flight left.  Even though my heart beat intensely due to the half-jog I managed down the halls after leaving my checked bags, I found myself frightened by how fast each second passed. Every time I looked down at my iPhone to check the time, I was bombarded with messages, “Good luck!” or “Call me when you land!” from my mom and my aunt. I internally panicked at the miniscule numbers above. Almost time.

When I sat at my seat, I realized many aspects of my life had accumulated to send me here.

I did not know about Pomona when I started high school. In fact, I did not know what it meant to attend a liberal arts college until my sophomore year. So when I created my list of colleges, most of which reside on the east coast, Pomona stood as an outlier. My search inclined toward the east; my friends did too.

Before I left, grandmother would jokingly ask, “Why didn’t you stay close so I could visit you?” At this, I initially felt guilty. I was becoming a part of a Californian home, unfamiliar, unknown to me, at the expense of not seeing the majority of my closest friends. I was traveling out of reach.

Why did I leave?

Temporary moments of homesickness. I hadn’t even left the city.

This was the hardest part of this process.

Yet now I consistently feel that I am achieving a new level of myself as I absorb the information I learn in class, as I read in the crevices of my favorite study spots, or as I talk late into the night with my new friends. I run through the halls of my dorm, knocking enthusiastically at each door, welcomed by smiles or laughter. I have met beautiful people from around the US and the world because I decided to follow my own college route. Where would I be without these faces?

Earlier today, I sat at a bench overlooking one of the larger fields on campus, surrounded by blooming flowers and slight breezes. I looked down at my phone to answer a Skype call. My grandmother answered me. After a few minutes of describing my classes, she stopped to say, “Estoy feliz que tu estas feliz.”

I am happy that you are happy.”