In August 2015, I didn’t make a joyous arrival onto UNC’s campus like most freshman did.
I drove onto campus in my dad’s vintage blue Chevy truck, my strapped down belongings fluttering in the highway breeze and my eyes fixed outside the window...
trying to muster the tiniest amusement at my dad’s comments about local landmarks.
Chapel Hill was my parents’ stomping ground...and I wanted no part of it.
We passed the giant stone-walled sign that marks campus and my heart sunk.
“Welcome to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - I’m going to Carolina in my mind”
I was definitely not going to Carolina in my mind.
I was angry and terrified, brokenhearted and homesick.
And I allowed those feelings to turn into a massive ball of discontent.
College didn’t appeal to me. America didn’t make any sense.
I was lonely, confused, and still undergoing intense culture-shock after moving from Japan just two weeks before.
No, I was not going to Carolina in my Mind. I was back in Iwakuni - in smells of salt air and mokusei.
This all sounds very dramatic. I was really just like a five-year-old being drug to Kindergarten...and I wanted out.
My parents helped me move into my first dorm room and my sweet Madre did what she always has
done best - made an unfamiliar place a home. She set up my coffee maker, set out my favorite mugs,
strung my folded cranes, and made a place for me to have my quiet time in the morning. In my refrigerator,
she left treats from Trader Joes and beautiful napkins to eat them on. I sat in my creaky wooden desk chair, trying to
stay cool in the Carolina heat and trying not to burst into tears.
“This is going to be the slowest four years ever. I’m going to do all I can to get it done as quickly as possible
so I can leave”, I asserted.
“Okay.” Madre responded, full of experienced grace. “Just don’t forget to enjoy the little things along the way”
I thought I was so mature - so cultured and above it all.
When we’re angry and discontent we think we know better…さすがね。
My parents left, and I quickly transitioned into get-it-done mode.
I poured myself into my schoolwork - so much so that my walls were taped with Biology processes and
equations from my chemistry labs. I studied from 8am until late into the evenings and sacrificed social life for
sociology study guides.
I neglected all fun for the sake of “getting it done as quickly as possible”.
And I was miserable.
Then spring came and something changed. I joined an outdoor sports class and my walls slowly melted.
I learned to play again. I made friends. I laughed more. I picked flowers and stayed up late talking with my
suitemates. I even began to take a little bit of pride in my Carolina Blue. Chapel Hill slowly became my own.
I learned to accept my circumstances...to find joy in them. And I learned that there’s even more maturity in making
the best of things than in standing steadfastly against them. God was gracious. He always is.
Fast forward 4 years.
I’m a senior at Chapel Hill now. And every time I drive past the stone
“Going to Carolina in my Mind” sign, my heart kinda swells. I see sweet memories and gratitude
where I saw dread and confinement before.
This place has been so good to me. The Lord has been so good to me through this place.
In the time I’ve been here, much has happened.
The place I thought would limit my horizons actually expanded them and I’ve been granted so much more
than I thought was possible.
I traded biology for a business degree. I learned that empowering people through economic development is my passion.
Spending endless hours in the Japanese department challenged, groomed, and grew my Japanese skills.
I was shepherded by Senseis who genuinely care and who want to see me succeed in Asian business.
I was even able to go to Japan again - once to learn and once to lead others in their learning.
Who woulda thought. Grace on grace on grace.
I built relationships with friends who made Carolina home and who became like family.
The friends that cry and pray over me at my lowest moments, and who celebrate with me with during the highest moments….priceless gems.
I hurt some, healed a lot. I even found love again in a very patient boy who encourages me to be
my best in Him with humility and with a great sense of humor - even when he’s miles away.
There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll leave it at gratitude.
I’m so thankful.
No, moving to Carolina didn’t confine me as I thought it would. It freed me.
If I’ve learned one thing during my time here it’s to never say never;
to trust when I cannot see;
to listen to my Madre;
and to enjoy the little things along the way.
So now, I’m 前向き. I’m forward-looking and excited for things to come.
Even though there are days when I would do anything to rush the future along, my path reminds me to be
content in the journey - because He’s proven that its such a worthy, joy-filled ride.
That time will come. In the meantime, I have the days before me - a hip surgery I didn’t know I’d have and a
trip to Central Europe that I never thought I’d lead. Next year, I have a Masters in Accounting to complete - one I said I’d never do.
After that? Who knows. Probably more things I said I'd never do.
I’m perfectly okay with it all.
And next time I move somewhere, I know I'll be looking out the window with much more excitement than
I did 4 years ago.
There are far better things ahead than we leave behind, after all.
Sorry its been so long friends.
Love and joy always,