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Learning to Fly

By Kelly Haymaker

I’ve grown up. I’ve made my choice. The car is packed and it’s time to go. What did I expect--to stay at home forever? I had the past eighteen years to spend with my parents. I’ve had eighteen years of their jokes to make me smile, their encouragement to keep me strong, their protection from the outside world. It’s time to break free. As for my brother and sister, they’ve had enough of me, their guardian, their big sis. They’ve grown weary of hiding within my shadow. They’re ready to make a name for themselves, a name other than that of “Kelly’s brother,” or “Kelly’s sister.”

Though it’s probably just my mind playing tricks, they know it’s time for me to go. The house is growing smaller day by day and I feel as if my welcome is wearing thin. My sister has already converted my half of the room into her storage base, and my brother continues to ask me when I’m leaving. I think I’m ready, but does it really matter if I’m not? I’m eighteen. What else is there for me to do but close my eyes and jump?

I feel the need to tell you I’m scared, no, wait, terrified is the word for it. What if I don’t find anyone with the same interests as me? What if I don’t make any friends? What if everyone thinks I’m too quiet, that I’m not loud enough, pretty enough, or smart enough? Am I supposed to come running home just so you can make me laugh and encourage me like you used to? Am I supposed to call you every night to let you know I’m okay? What if I fail every class? What if the teachers don’t like me? What if I get lost, will you be there to point me in the right direction? I know I said this is what I wanted. I know I told you I couldn’t wait for college, that I couldn’t wait to be on my own: No rules, no parents, no curfew. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’m not ready, not as prepared as I had anticipated. I decided on a college because of sports and my major, but what if I don’t make the soccer team? What if I decide I don’t want to be an English teacher? What then? Do you see these questions that are consuming my mind, suffocating my thoughts? If you knew, would you still cast me out, a sheep amidst the wolves? You know how naive I can be. Would you still offer me, your oldest daughter, to this world of sex, drugs, and anarchy, a world filled with people you would never want me to become? Are you really ready to let me go?

This is what I need. It’s going to be good for me, a beneficial learning experience, a new scene, opening a new door to a world of possibilities--names to learn, faces to identify, personalities to uncover. Never again in my life will I be presented with such an opportunity to reconstruct myself in a place where no one knows me, a place where everything is different and everyone is starting anew. This is where the bonds will form, the friendships that last a lifetime, constructed throughout the accumulated trials and tribulations four years of college provides.

Yes, I am prepared for this next step. I’m ready to take the field as a Division Three collegiate athlete. I’m ready to enhance my education with the help of unfamiliar professors, professionals of their trade. I’m ready to be on my own, far from the bonds that my parents have placed upon me. The world will be different, I’m sure, without my mom to stock the refrigerator with my favorite foods, my dad to buy gas for my car, my sister to read my poems or short stories to, and without my brother to humor me with sarcasm. Of course it will be different, but this is what I need. This is what they need as well. I’m sure they’ll miss me, but life doesn’t start at eighteen, nor does it end at twenty-one. I have the rest of my life to be their daughter and sister, but I have only the next four years to be young.

I watch as you secure the last few bags in the back seat of the car, a sparkle in your brown eyes and a large grin on your face. Are you going to miss me at all? Do you realize I am leaving? Remember me, your daughter, Kelly, the one who pained you with the longest labor, the one you raised without preconceived ideas? Your rebel, the only child out of the three who refused to go to a Catholic high school-- the one that you attended when you were young--choosing public instead? Will you miss me, the daughter you raised to be just like you, so much alike in every way? Well, I guess not. After all you do have two other children and Katie is second in her class. But Joey’s at that age when he hates you, not for any particular reason, just because he’s a teenager and he thinks it’s cool. He doesn’t even talk to you, and Katie’s always gone, at a meeting for school, teaching CCD, or working. Even when she is home she’s usually too busy with homework to bother with conversation. So where does that leave you, alone, to talk to yourself, or, if you’re really desperate, dad? Remember the long conversations we used to have around the kitchen table? I always had time to talk to you. Maybe when the house is quiet and you need someone to share a joke with, or you feel the urge to recite lines from Sleepless in Seattle, maybe then you’ll miss me and you’ll realize you shouldn’t have let me go.

Well this is it. I guess this is good-bye. Please don’t look at me; your sad eyes will make me cry. I really do know what I’m doing. I realize there’s no turning back, and I know that once I get into that car, seat belt buckled and engine started, I’m as good as gone. I realize the space will grow between us. The pink-and-gray bedroom upstairs will no longer be mine. My sister will no longer be my roommate. You, my mother, will no longer prepare my meals, or wash my clothes. My father will no longer fix my broken treasures. I’m growing up. I’ve made my choice and I’m ready to go. Just please don’t cry for fear that you’ll make me stay. Please don’t watch as I drive away. I’m ready to be on my own. That is, as long as you’re prepared to let me go.