Still moving forward
May 1, 2020
I sing and play my music loudly to mask the ominous rattling coming from the engine of my 2003 Jeep Liberty. On my drive, I pass all of the major landmarks of my hometown. The pizza shop I used to work at, the only grocery store in town, the donut shop, the ice cream place, my high school, the bank, the car repair place and the tobacco fields. I can attribute a specific memory to each place from my 18 years of living there.
I left all those landmarks behind when I packed up that same Jeep Liberty to head off to Bowdoin. My first year at school has not been easy. One day I called my dad crying on the steps of the art museum, and he reminded me “everything will work out if you just keep moving forward.” I took this advice and kept moving, and he was right. There may have been a ton of bumps in the road, like giant Massachusetts-after-a-bad-winter potholes in the road, but things had finally started to fall into place.
Then spring break happened, and everything stopped moving.
My metaphorical Massachusetts potholes soon became reality once again as I returned home to rural Western Mass. for an undetermined amount of time. The stress and confusion of leaving campus and completely shifting our classes online, job loss, financial strain and fear of a virus that seemed to have conquered the world consumed all of my thoughts. Throughout all of the chaos, this nagging feeling that my life had stopped moving forward was eating away at me. I felt like I was destined to never get out of my small town, that this was all a sick joke played on me by the universe to keep me at home.
I resented being back home, even though at some points in the school year, it was all I wanted. I was angry that just when I had just started to feel like I had a home at Bowdoin, I had to leave. I was upset about all the things I had not yet accomplished, and I mourned the loss of the plans I had for the end of the semester. I did not want to drive around my town and see the same roads I had seen for the last 19 years of my life. I wanted to move forward, but I felt like I had been brought several steps back.
Especially as a first-generation college student, I often feel as though I am traversing unchartered waters. It can be exhausting, and it is easy to get lost in the waves. But if I have found one good thing in coming home, it has been perspective. Coming home reminds me of why I am at college in the first place. I am reminded of everyone who worked to help get me to where I am. Yes, I miss being on campus and being able to see my professors in class or office hours and my friends at meals. I miss Druck Atrium. I miss the quiet while walking across the quad to Maine Hall on a winter night. I miss awkwardly waiting for eggs at Moulton breakfast, and I miss the glass spine of Adams Hall on a sunny day.
But I have also missed the rattle of my car engine as I drive down winding roads past the tobacco fields of my hometown, screaming a Lorde song at the top of my lungs. I have missed the pizza I used to take home after a shift at work, usually a little too burnt for any customer to want. I’ve missed praying for my car to pass inspection when I am pretty sure my E-brake does not work. I have missed the best donuts in New England and sundaes at the mediocre ice cream place (the only place to hang out in my town after 8 p.m.) I almost even missed seeing every single person I know at the only grocery store in town. Mostly, I’ve missed being surrounded by the people who remind me what I am working for at Bowdoin, the people who helped me get there.
I realized after some time that I have not stopped moving forward. Sure, life has slowed down, and it may not be going in the exact direction I want it to right now. But, somehow, my final destination is a little clearer to me again. It is important to remember where you came from, why you left and where you want to go next. I now know these things to be certain: the roads in Massachusetts will always have potholes, I have the best friends and family at home and at Bowdoin and I can’t wait to get back to school.
Jacqueline Seddon is a member of the Class of 2023.
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As a fellow first-gen student and graduating senior, your words deeply resonate. Looking back to my first year self, I wish I could say tell her that there is a long, hard, beautiful journey ahead of you, and it will become all the more meaningful when you take time to look back at where you’ve come from. You can do it.