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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

Homeward bound

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

(6/2014) This is a short, slightly sarcastic guide to packing for your trip back home, a subject that is often ignored under the mistaken assumption that if you made it there, you’ll be able to make it back. I’ve tried to keep my advice broad, as my inspiration for it comes mostly from my recent and permanent trip back home from the Mount, which is really more of a move than a trip.

Step 1: Pack early.

Take a look around your apartment, condo, hotel, or motel room. You’ve just realized that you’ve not only accumulated much more cargo than you brought with you, but that you have also spread it nice and evenly throughout your toasty living space. Panic, regret, and mild irritation may start setting in. This is natural. The best thing to do is start scraping together your belongings into one central location. I typically choose my bed for this, but living room floors, kitchen tables, and the occasional armchair or two will suffice. Have your boxes, luggage, and duffel bags at the ready, then stand pondering for a few minutes how on earth you made everything fit. Give up to a sense of hopelessness and watch TV for a half hour. (I recommend Scrubs for the weary of heart.) Allow the characters’ stories to inspire you. Gain a renewed sense of confidence and ambition and approach your task once again. Pack one box, sigh with a sense of accomplishment, then go to bed. Repeat step for up to one week.

Step 2: Buy more luggage

By now you have realized that you must have been a magician when you packed the first time but you seem to have misplaced your bottomless trunk. Regardless, you must now invest in another box, bag, or pack mule, dependent upon your specific needs. With your new supplies, you are now able to reasonably overflow your other luggage without breaking any zippers, locks, or buckles and now you think you’re ready to move everything into the car.

Step 3: Leave a few things behind

Wrong. You begin hauling everything out to your vehicle when you realize that no way in Hades will everything fit in your trunk. Plus, the more you carry, the more tired you become. You realize that some of the heavier, less practical things must be sacrificed for the greater good and to avoid overweight luggage charges on your next flight, should that be your means of transportation. You carefully unzip the spring-loaded luggage and extricate the complete set of hand painted mixing bowls that you just had to have and realize that you still have to have them. You decide a few of your older clothes can be sacrificed instead and that you’ll swallow the bitter pill of overweight luggage fees. You silently curse yourself for not thinking this through sooner.

Step 4: Enlist help

As you continue to load your car, your luggage seems to grow heavier and heavier. It has. Like the not-so-skilled Tetris master you are, you have constructed the bottom layer of luggage out of your lightest, most fragile belongings. Proceed to empty your vehicle into the parking lot while glancing warily around for any suspicious character that may want to snatch something during this moment of weakness. Begin rebuilding the bottom layer of luggage with your heaviest, sturdiest belongings this time. Grow weary. Run over your own foot with the wheelie luggage a couple times and drop your duffel bag twice, but continue to deny the fact that you need help. Nearly drop those treasured mixing bowls and finally recognize that you may actually need help. Hating the very thought of your own inferiority, you continue to struggle for another half hour before conceding defeat.

You now have two options: call a friend or hire a stranger. Your friend will tease your frailty but willingly help while a stranger is of questionable honesty and requires money you don’t have. The friend it is. Your ego deflates a little as you make the phone call, but within a half hour your truck is packed and ready to go. You chide yourself for not calling sooner.

Step 5: Travel

Road trip time. Whether you’re making your way back to the airport or, like me, just making a short trip across counties, there is one thing that is absolutely essential to driving: music. You now grimace upon remembering that your vehicle is outdated. There is no auxiliary jack for your iPod. Old-fashioned radio it is. Your preselected stations are not as good as usual, and you’re sick of that Katy Perry song. You finally settle on Jack FM when the signal cuts out. Fantastic. The next 5 minutes of the trip are spent hitting the search button for something—anything—familiar. You’re stuck with a country station that you aren’t really into at the moment.

The traffic isn’t bad and the weather is nice enough to roll your windows down and enjoy the breeze…until you pass through the scenic cornfields that were freshly fertilized. You’ve never rolled your windows up faster. Then there’s your trusty GPS, "recalculating…" on your console as you try not to panic about having "arrived at your destination." Apparently, you now live in a cornfield. Fabulous. Eventually you find your way back to a main road, then a familiar town and—praise the Lord!—your driveway is within reach.

Step 6: Arrive home

Once you make it home you’ll be tempted to sit down with a nice cup of coffee or tea and relax. Don’t. This is a false sense of security. Just because you are home does not mean the work is over. Unpack your car as quickly as possible, shoving boxes and bags wherever they’ll fit in your home. Only then should you kick back and enjoy a cup of your favorite poison.

Step 7: Unpack

In this corner we have the defending champion, "Loaded Luggage," and in the other corner we have the rookie challenger, "Tired Traveler." Ding ding! You’ve now sat on the couch for two days with an infinite supply of coffee and tea. You really should unpack. You trudge to your room and the wall of bags is so intimidating you think you’d rather just sleep. Grabbing one, you reach inside and pull out an armful of dirty laundry, which you promptly toss into the hamper. The next bag holds pictures from you trip. You promptly sit down and flip through them, losing a solid hour of useful unpacking time. Finally setting them aside, you look at the clock and realize you should probably go to bed. You have to go back to work tomorrow and don’t want to be too tired. Unpacking can wait one more day.

Pretty much every member of the Class of 2014 is going through this cycle at the moment, not wanting to unpack their boxes for fear that it’ll mean college is really over when they do. My own "Loaded Luggage" still beats me down every day, but it’s time to fight back and unpack. My memories of the Mount will always have a place with me, but I have some new boxes that need to be filled with new memories. Goodbye, Mount. Hello, University of Virginia!

Read other articles by Nicole Jones