The summer before I went to college, I spent MONTHS getting ready.
I made lists on lists on lists. Over and over I ran through them all in my head, trying to think of every possible thing I could need for my dorm room. One morning, my mom found me rummaging through a cabinet, hoarding a small selection of office supplies: rubber bands, scotch tape, scissors, Ziploc bags.
“You know,” she said—in the simultaneously kind yet all-knowing voice only a mother can master—”I bet there’s someplace in Chapel Hill you can buy those if you need them.”
I’ve been this way since I was a kid. Whenever there’s a big transition in my life, the Type-A part of my brain goes into overdrive. It’s not that I love packing, exactly…weekend trip coming up? I’ll throw half of my closet into a duffel two hours before I leave and call it a day.
But every time I’ve been faced with something bigger—summer camp, a new school year, college, study abroad—I transform into a full-on list junkie, obsessed with planning and organizing and chasing that high of having everything ready. Of being on top of it all. Of being prepared for anything.
But of course, that’s impossible, isn’t it?
That summer before college, caught with a handful of rubber bands and Ziploc bags, I suddenly realized that the impulse to over-prepare was a way of calming my nerves—of quieting the fears that whispered, “what if?”
“What if you aren’t happy there?”
“What if you can’t handle living on your own?”
“What if everything goes wrong?”
In that moment, my mom gently helped me understand that I might not have every.little.thing. that I could possibly need, neatly organized into compartments in my dorm room. She helped me understand that in college (and in life) there will be things you need that you never could have anticipated. There will be moments you will be anything but prepared for. And that’s okay. Because those are the times that you figure it out—and learn something from the experience.
In the past two weeks, as Chris and I packed and prepared for one of the biggest adventures of my life, I started feeling those familiar waves of nerves and excitement—and a familiar urge to quiet them with more lists and compartments and spreadsheets.
But this time, I was mostly able to stick to a normal amount of lists and trust that we’ll figure the rest out as we go. And as we finally pulled out of the driveway yesterday with our car carefully loaded, I reminded myself that we can’t possibly have everything we could need for the next two months—and that’s exactly how it should be. This time, I feel pretty confident that I can find a place to buy the Ziploc bags.
Road trip, I’m as ready as I’m going to be. Bring it on.