Raised by a single father in Birmingham, Ala., Jasmine’s choice to attend a university outside her home state was a difficult and surprising decision. As she breaks tradition, leaving behind her family, she reflects on the effects of her choice, and what compelled her to leave the Deep South and head for the East Coast.
“Anywhere. Not too far from me,” my father replied when I asked him where I should go to college.
He was lying on the bed with his eyes closed, so that I couldn’t read him. But his choice was obvious: the big state university, only a 45-minute drive from our front yard. Nothing else seemed to be an option.
The final week of March had left us both in a frenzy of emotion. For seven days straight, I had opened letters and emails with trembling fingers, wondering which one would lead to my destiny. My father, on the other hand, became more and more distant with each acceptance letter, finally realizing that I had no intention of staying home.
I had already heard from the big state university back in early December: I was accepted with a somewhat decent scholarship. It was the only in-state school I applied to, and it is the only time I can remember my father being excited about a college’s response. His eyes were full of pride; a sense of accomplishment lay resting in the line of his smile. Later on, even as numerous universities with lower acceptance rates and higher scholarship offers granted me admission, I never once saw that look come onto his face again.
A part of me feels guilty. I am leaving my father alone. Whom will he come home to in the evenings? Whom will he eat dinner with at night? His weekends — whom will he spend them with? For 18 years, it has just been the two of us, depending on one another. Now suddenly, it seems as if I’ve ditched him.
Another part of me is excited, as if I am a pioneer. It’s very rare for someone in my family to decide to go to school far away, and being different gives me a strange sort of thrill. Despite my own excitement, a few people close to me have remained skeptical.
“You know it gets cold there, right? What’s wrong with Alabama? Why do you need to go all the way up there?”
I am confronted with these types of questions frequently. Still, I try to make it a point that my decision to go to school out of state is not out of dislike or disloyalty to the place where I have grown up. Home will always be home. Southern culture will always be at the root of who I am. Birmingham will forever be in my blood — no matter how far north I go. I couldn’t get rid of it, even if I tried.
But, the South is safe. It is familiar. It is everything I don’t want my college experience to be, and I have known that from the beginning, even if my father didn’t. The fact that my future isn’t obvious is what makes me excited about every day that is to come.
It’s with this in mind that I am able to deal with the fact that my father will be lonely without me, and I will be lonely without him. These feelings are, of course, inevitable. But what we are experiencing now is a separation that must occur, although neither of us expected that it would come so soon.
Even now, several months after I signed my enrollment form, it’s still difficult for me to imagine being away from home for so long. It will be December when I return. The seasons will have changed. My father will have aged, if only slightly. And as for me — who will I be?
The truth is, I don’t know. And I’m OK with that. In fact, I could want nothing more.
Jasmine White is a freshman in the College. ‘Bama Rogue appears every other Friday in the guide.