Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Last Meal

Last class

Friday was an emotional day. As a matter of fact, it was a very, very emotional day. If you're wondering why, it was our last day at Brown. It was a day I had been dreading oh so much since the first day of class. I managed to find my home at Brown, and shortly after, it was already time to leave.

I had woken at 6 am to take care of some last minute packing and get ready for the long day ahead. By 7 am, my bags were all packed and were being loaded into the rental car. I went back into the dorm, purposefully taking the long way to my room, stopping to have conversations with people on my way up.

I grabbed my bag and laptop, took one final look at room, and closed my dorm room for the last time. Classes started at 9:30, so majority of my friends were still asleep. Esme and I wanted to grab breakfast early and practice our presentation for a bit, so we headed to the Ratty at 7:30. When we stepped outside of Perkins, we realized that it had begun to rain. Even though the rain came at the most unpredictable and inconvenient times, I knew I was going to miss it.  Just like my room, I intentionally took the long way to the ratty, taking in every second of it. I admired the trees, the houses, and the people a bit more and a bit differently than usual. With each passing minute, the wave of dread began to crash harder and harder.

I swiped my card for my last meal at the Ratty. For the past two weeks,  I had been eating 3 boiled eggs, fruit, and a cup of tea every single morning, and it's not surprise that was exactly what I got this morning as well. The Ratty was still relatively empty, which didn't help my mood one bit. I sat with Esme, Bianche, and Kelsey. All of us were a bit down to some extent, but as usual, conversation temporarily aided in forgetting what was soon to come.

From the Ratty, I walked to List Hall for our last class. I did not expect this class to be as emotional as it was. I walked in, took a glance at the people, at the walls, and once again felt the dread. In front of the room, Mary Grace had put up two quotes, and told us to do a free write for one or both of the quotes. The quote I chose was about knowledge, and how it involuntarily changes a person.

Then, we played a game Mary Grace had planned out for us called "Touch Someone Who..." The objective of the game was somewhat similar to Heads Up 7 Up. Everyone has their eyes closed, except for the people Mary Grace chooses to pick. The assigned 'pickers' come to the center of the room, and Mary Grace gives a description, and the person who fits that description will be picked, anonymously. I think that was the best part. You have people who believe that you have a good heart, or people who you believe you are selfless, yet you aren't entirely sure who. I remember trying to listen to the footsteps, to see if I could figure out who was who. All the descriptions were so pure, I tried my best not to cry, but then it was my turn to do the picking. "Pick someone who made you laugh until you cried." That was the one that got to me, because I won't get those moments with those people ever again. There were some where I tapped every single person in the room, because I genuinely believed they fit the description. I remember seeing their faces light up, or hearing a sniffle or two.

We all put our heads up once the game was over, and everyone had tears running down their face. Mary Grace then asked us to reflect, and speak about our experience with the class. I was the first one to raise my hand, but I remember having trouble speaking because my voice kept cracking.  I thanked all my classmates for the amazing times and hoped that we could keep in touch. I mentioned how I originally didn't think that this program would change my life, but that changed within my two weeks there. That led to the start of a very emotional discussion. We all spoke to each other, and Mary Grace about how we felt, but then Mary Grace invited our TA's Ashley and Imani to the center of the room and gave them the chance to speak. The words they said made everyone cry even more than we already were, and then it was our turn to make them cry. I thought  I couldn't cry anymore than I already I, but I was so wrong.

Mary Grace began to pass out little gifts bags to each of us, the contents inside still yet a mystery. In the bag, there was a pack of tissues for the plane ride back home. There was a rubber band to remind us not to stretch ourselves too far. There was a band-aid to remind us that risks come with pain, and to practice self care. A tub of play doh for when we are stressed. A bottle of bubbles to rise up against those who believe we are not good enough, and lastly 4 puzzle pieces. At first I was confused, but then it clicked, and Mary Grace began to explain. She purchased a puzzle containing 100 pieces, among us 25 students, she distributed 4 to each of us, in hope that if we are ever reunited in the future, we will be able to complete the puzzle.  It was as though she strategically planned out how to get the most tears out of us, because once she explained the contents of the bag, I was fully bawling, as was majority of the class.

We all then came together for pictures, and began to say our goodbyes with plenty of long, tight hugs. My eyes were a bit puffy in many of the pictures, but nonetheless, those are pictures that I will cherish for a long, long time.

After pictures, I made my way to the dorm to get pictures with a few people as well as a few goodbyes since we would be leaving early. My heart just kept sinking more and more as I realized how much this place had really become a home for me within such little time. All the people at Perkins were so kind and genuine and we all got along so well. Even though the building desensitized me to some disgusting sights, such as moldy bathrooms, I loved it there.

A few friends and I went down to Thayer Street to grab something quick to eat before heading over to Solomon Hall for our closing ceremony. 1 hour left, 1 hour was left until I had to depart. I saw all the lovely familiar faces I was so used to seeing everyday in the room, and knew I had to be quick to get pictures with them as soon as the ceremony ended. The Leadership Institute staff were given an opportunity to speak, including our professors. Then, a slideshow created by our amazing RA's was shown. It had pictures of all our little moments from program, and it left me feeling bittersweet.

The ceremony ended, and I quickly snapped some pictures with a few friends and said my goodbyes, even though there were many I missed. It was now time to present my action plan! Surprisingly, it was much more laid back than I had expected. A total of 5 students in the room, along with one adult. I went first, and presented my plan about establishing a youth support group at the nearby middle and elementary school. Within 5 minutes, I was done, and made my way to Van Wickle Gates to meet up with Kendra and the group. Once we were all settled, we made our way to the airport.
I miss my girls

Shortly after, we were on a plane to Chicago. Feeling so down, all I wanted to do was sleep, and that was exactly what I did. I woke up to Kelsey laughing at me because supposedly my head was hanging to the side of the aisle and people kept bumping into me and apologizing, and I genuinely had no idea that had happened. Being a deep sleeper is both a blessing and a curse.
Chicago airport

Our layover at Chicago went by quite fast. I grabbed a bagel to fill my stomach, and once again we were in the air for a 4 and a half hour flight. Thankfully, this plane was much larger, and comfier as well. I fell asleep listening to jazz and woke up to the gorgeous bay area lights. We were home. I felt a mixture of emotions. On one side, I was excited to see my family, and on the other side I felt homesick of a home that wasn't really mine. I missed everyone and everything about Brown.

We grabbed our baggage and were shortly sitting inside the shuttle headed towards El Cerrito High School. The ride was silent, but I didn't mind. These past two weeks have taught me to be comfortable with silence, and how wonderful of a thing it could be. Shortly after, I spotted Don. As usual, he was in his shorts and a tropical shorts, while I was wearing to jackets and jeans. When he said it wasn't too cold here in the Bay, I didn't believe him. Our internal thermometers are slightly different. About a minute later, my parents arrived and I greeted them with big, big hugs. We said our final goodbyes as a cohort and I realized how strange it was going to be not seeing them everyday.

I came home, and for some reason, things just felt so different to me. I got to eat food, home cooked food, which was wonderful. I went to a bathroom, that I got to call my own, and there was no mold to be spotted. I was able to shower without shoes on, yet at the same time, the feeling of melancholy still lingered. After a crazy day, I fell into a deep, deep sleep.
And it's over

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