August 2010. I kept myself together, embracing my dad tightly one last time before he climbed into our family Chevrolet. My mom closed the trunk, the back window newly emblazoned with a Duke sticker below those of my older brothers’ universities. She waited, tolerantly and apprehensively at the same time, next in line to say goodbye to her baby girl.
August 2013. I got out of my car alone, immediately swallowed by the unforgiving Southern heat and humidity. A quick pit stop for a gallon of coffee and a few of gasoline, I continued the solitary trek back on I-85 South with a Tetris-packed car for one final go in Durham.
Then, I hadn’t been to North Carolina for more than a long weekend.
Now, I spend a few fleeting nights at my parents’ New Jersey home for entire seasons at a time, a stranger to my own cul-de-sac. I wave to my neighbors as I get the mail, some of them strangers now. They wave half-heartedly back, apprehensively lifting their hand before realizing that I actually live in the pale grey house with the blue shutters and the long driveway.
Times have changed. Three years, a few hundred thousand dollars of tuition and room and board and food points later, six semesters, three summers, abundant laughs and a few too many tears later, times have, indeed, changed.
When I got to Duke, I had big dreams. I’m sure you did too. But now a few inches taller, a few years older and a few too many dollars spent, those dreams are gone, and in the most affectionate and assuring way, yours are going to go away soon, too.
It’s not a bad thing. It’s a fine thing—an accomplishment, if anything. When I got to Duke, I had ideas about what I wanted. Things I wanted to do, win and be. And now, for variable reasons, I don’t think about some of those things anymore.
I verbally committed to be a Duke Blue Devil during my junior year of high school. I put in the time—the 10,000 hours of concerted effort. I made the recruiting videos and played in the camps and clinics and it all paid off with one phone call to a 919 area code. I raided the bookstore for blues and blacks, trained harder and harder to improve my fitness and strength and speed everyday, each day another one closer to crossing the Mason-Dixon to call myself a student-athlete at Duke. Life was good.
I was going to study public policy. I was going to take notes in class everyday. I was going to fall in love. I wasn’t going to be that girl—you know, the girl that can’t dance but is dancing on top of the bar at Shooters II anyway. No way, not ever. Life would be good, I dreamt.
And in fact, life was good. Life was even too good, but I didn’t know it yet. I woke up with my rose-colored glasses on, wore them day in and day out and didn’t realize until I finally got to North Carolina that those glasses might skew your realistic perception of what’s going on around you.
Then at some point between class and practice and study hall and games, my glasses cracked, leaving rose-colored pieces scattered all over the East Coast. It wasn’t until I was without those glasses that my vision was actually clear. Those glasses cracked, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I changed my major after less than a semester of declaring one. I make beautiful, abstract doodles and block letters spelling my name in the margins of my barren, spiral notebooks instead of filling them with the notes I said I’d take. I fell in love and even got my heart broken. My body is tattered, and I’ve got scars from an unexpected shoulder surgery. I’m lucky if I get a few minutes on the field in a Duke jersey. I still can’t dance, and I was that girl on the bar anyway—probably more than once.
A few years ago, my dreams were different than they are now. My priorities were different. My body was different. Everything was different.
I had such a specific vision for myself. A vision I was sure was exactly what I wanted out of my time at Duke. But somewhere along the way, I was forced to change what I saw, change what I was doing. Change what I was thinking.
I welcome the idea of change. Without change and difference and deterrence and taking the high road and the road less traveled every now and then, you’ll get caught up living the dreams you think are right for you, but maybe not the ones that really are.
Now entering my fourth year here, I’ve done things I never expected, and I have shattered the ceiling of expectations I had for myself along the way by virtue of simply letting life happen.
Things happen. The proverbial s**t will, undoubtedly, hit the fan. Fail a test. Get your heart broken. Dance on the bar. Let life happen, and the best will fall in line. If you haven’t gotten it figured out yet, you’re not alone. And if you think you’ve got your plans locked down, I bet you’ll be doing something different by the time you’re my age. Welcome to Duke.
Ashley Camano is a Trinity senior. Her column runs every other Tuesday. Send Ashley a message on Twitter @camanyooo.