The Great College Road Trip

Ally Russell, a Scripps Ranch High School senior, is our writer for the 2015–2016 school year. She will share her thoughts about SRHS and life as a teen in our community. Ally is founder and president of the school’s Women in Literature Club and is copy editor for the yearbook. She titles her column “The Story So Far…” because high school is a time filled with so many firsts. She says that while high school is a time for change, she realizes that she and her peers are just beginning their lives.

My educational career has been a marathon. Little did I know when I began kindergarten 13 years ago that my race was just beginning. After miles of projects and homework assignments I’ve arrived at the final stretch of my race. Victory is just a few months in front of me, but instead of being met with confetti cannons and ticker tape, all I can focus on is what lies beyond that finish line. College. Careers. Life. More marathons are waiting for me. The real race is just beginning.

Senior year is a trial run. While still cradled in the supportive net of childhood, we have to begin testing the waters of adult life. This is our last year—hopefully—living at home before we are thrust into the unknown. Despite the constant reminders from parents and educators, this realization hits every senior in a unique way.

I was bulldozed with this epiphany on my great college road trip. It began the way most road trips do, with a last-minute complication. There are two things you can always count on as a kid. The first, that despite evidence to the contrary, you’re pretty sure you’ll never actually grow up. The second is that your parents will always be there for you. On the morning of my trip, both beliefs were shattered.

After years of relying on my mom to get up before me and shake me awake when my alarm fails, I was the one to get up first. Moms aren’t supposed to get sick, and kids are not supposed to go on college road trips alone, but that is exactly what was happening. After realizing my mom was out of commission with pneumonia, I faced the daunting task of visiting three colleges, driving 500 miles, and navigating the adult world all by myself.

In all the scrambling, I found a traveling companion. One senior forced to go on her great college road trip alone is intimidating, but with a friend tagging along, my nerves were pacified. If we combined our ages, we had the experience of a 35-year-old! With my close friend Shannon on navigation and my laser-like focus on the road, we embarked on our great adventure and plunged into adulthood.

With 18 years under my belt, I’m used to thinking I have everything pretty much figured out. It isn’t until I’m thrust into these unfamiliar situations that I realize how much more there is to learn. Like most things in life, I prefer to dive in headfirst and hope the rest sorts itself out. This is not the kind of attitude you want to have during your first college road trip.

Make sure you set out in a suitable vehicle, not your old van that doesn’t have air conditioning, a horn, or air bags, because you will make it five miles before it breaks down and your parents will have to come get you and trade cars. Your dad will be so concerned that he’ll send your pneumonia-stricken mom to accompany you. She will spend the majority of the trip coughing in the backseat. With so many speed bumps in our trip before even leaving Scripps Ranch, it was difficult to be optimistic about the journey.

Halfway to our first college, our phones died and we were faced with a dilemma neither of us “millennials” had ever encountered before. How did anyone get anywhere without their phones and GPS? After stopping at a gas station we were given a map with a highlighted route to our first destination by a friendly cashier.

We were back on track, except for the fact that my friend and I had never used an actual map before. Maps don’t reroute your directions when you make a wrong turn. Maps don’t talk to you and remind you when your exit is coming up. How anyone got anywhere before iPhones is beyond me. If I ever have to use an actual map again it will be too soon.

We collected about 10 maps on our way to Los Angeles, one gas station attendant after the other thinking they were solving our problems. But we were not discouraged. Our generation takes great pride in our determination and problem-solving abilities. After an hour of no luck reading maps, we stopped for lunch, charged our phones, threw out our maps, and trusted Siri to show us the way. In moments of brilliance like this, it’s difficult to imagine why my generation is often labeled lazy. One day I hope to navigate an entire road trip without my phone’s help. Not today.

The rest of our trip continued in similar fashion, facing one problem—adventure!—after the next. However, we successfully navigated our college road trip and survived our first taste of adulthood.

Along the way, every student we met on the campuses had the poise and composure of a seasoned college student. It seemed like everyone received a crash course in adulthood except for me.

Only now, with less frustration than when we missed our fourth turn, I realize growing up is about experiencing new things and diving head first into foreign situations. There is no manual for adulthood. You can only try, fail, and try again. For my college road trip to universities in Northern California, I look forward to encountering problems and challenges and facing them without looking back.

Ally Russell, SRHS Senior