January 4th-5th, 2018

One year ago today exactly, I found myself, by some accident, in Miami, Florida. I left home, scared and alone, depressed and anxiety-ridden, both eager to see the world and terrified of what I’d find. I had almost nothing and almost no one. I am writing to you today, with 6 published poems under my belt, a girlfriend, the best friends I’ll ever have, and so many incredible memories and experiences.

My Semester at Sea voyage began, truly, when I got to the Philadelphia Airport. My mom had fought with me the day before to attempt to change my flight. I wanted to see my friends one last time, but more importantly, what I couldn’t tell her was that I couldn’t bear to be alone with myself for a day longer than I had to. Little did I know that my voyage would provide me with all the hard alone-time I needed to become a better version of myself, but that’s a story for another time. Anywho, I began my voyage stuck in a terrible snow storm.

Before I go on to explain the rest of the story, it is important to me that you keep in mind that somehow, through all of this chaos, my checked bags ended up making it to San Diego as regularly scheduled. Somehow… It still keeps me up at night.

Anyway, almost every flight out of Philly was being canceled, and I was starting to sweat because if I didn’t make it to San Diego that day there was a very real chance I wouldn’t make it on the ship. My parents and I were trying everything we can to change my flight, and finally, I got a new flight to Miami. The only issue was it would be too late at night so I would miss the connecting flight and I was too young to get a hotel room. My dad called a coworker of his who lives just forty minutes from the airport and he so graciously allowed me to stay in his home with him, his wife, and their infant. He also drove me to Walmart to get pajamas and toiletries for the night (all of my overnight things were already in San Diego somehow), McDonald’s in the morning for breakfast, and to the airport, all before bringing his kid to preschool and going to work the next day. Thank you, again, Alex, for all that you did for me.

I arrived in Miami so stupid late after a day of tears, emotional turmoil, and sheer panic, running on nothing but black coffee and airport bagels, and once I got to Alex’s home in Plantation, Florida, I showered, and passed out. The next day, I remember sitting in the airport waiting for my flight, reading Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance,” which I would eventually leave behind in the donation boxes on the ship somewhere near South Africa or Ghana. In any case, I had terrible jitters for the entirety of the flight, and every step I took after leaving Alex was increasingly strange and risky.

I somehow found my luggage all on my own, then navigated, by some miracle, to the car waiting for me and me alone to take me to the hotel where the bus would leave to take me two hours south and across the border to Ensenada, Mexico, where I would board the ship and go… well, everywhere else. I found my way through the hotel and had to wait three more hours for the other two latecomers to arrive.

There were only three of us on that huge bus, but we filled the space with our separate anxiety. Once we hit the Mexican border and we had to get off the bus to go through security, we started bonding and easing each other’s nerves. The three of us walked together to the ship, with everyone on the deck doing a lifeboat drill, looking down on us as we walked in.

January 4th and 5th, 2018 changed my life forever. I will never forget the chaos. I will never forget the luck, the excitement, the gratitude.

I will never forget any of it.

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