Moving From Florida to New York City: Graduation Anxiety, Montage Moments

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Pictured: Shelby Daniel. (Shelby Daniel/The Fordham Ram)

Shelby Daniel, Staff Writer

I’ve found myself dreading small talk more than usual this year. It’s because I’m a senior in college.

When people ask me what I plan on doing after school, I usually picture a question mark emoticon appearing above my head as I stumble through something about how I’m “waiting to see where the year takes me.”

Logically, I know it’s a valid answer. People close to me have shown me the different ways life can take you after college. Yet, there is a nagging part of me that refuses to wait and see what happens. It’s difficult not to be anxious about a major life transition, especially one that requires so much personal accountability.

Feeling a pull towards a certain place or career takes a lot of time and work, especially emotionally. When you figure out at least one of those things, everything else will fall into place, right?

Most of all, I’m scared of failing the expectations of being a successful New Yorker who came to the Big Apple from sunny Florida. In reality, I constructed these expectations on my own.

I started to reflect on this because of a poem. I’m in a special club on campus, Fordham Experimental Theater — a club where, when you join, you begin to find your sense of self. A good friend of mine got on stage in the Fordham Black Box to perform a poem exploring the difference between where you are from and where you want to go. It’s not exactly a stretch to see how these questions construct your choices during most of college.

It made me think, “I talk a lot about where I’m from.”

Going to college, I was prepared to leave Florida completely behind. It would just be something to list with a fun fact at the beginning of class my first semester, I thought. I was very wrong.

Somehow, I slipped stories about spending childhood summers on Siesta Key into every conversation; how you could smell coconut sunscreen, salty air and freshly made waffle cones from the local ice cream store.

When I realized how much I talked about home, I started to think about why. All I wanted was to leave and go do what I expected to do with myself in New York.

Living in Tampa suburbia from kindergarten to 12th grade fed into my high school fantasy that life was a coming-of-age movie, and that I was a leading lady destined to move somewhere and launch myself into greatness.

Writing the script for the imaginary flick was easy, mostly because of all my source material.

I present the quintessential post-prom ritual: cosmic bowling. Going up to the counter, we were a horde of chiffon, rubber-soled shoes and relentless teenage mirth. The air was heavy with the smell of burnt pizza. Neon lights shaped like palm trees and dolphins reflected off bedazzled dresses. None of us used bumpers, resulting in an overwhelming amount of open frames. Fingers grasped the worn bowling balls while delicate corsages sat on wrists mere centimeters away. After getting home, I’d replay these things over and over again in my head before falling asleep.

This is what I call a montage moment — when there’s an indie song playing under a series of clips. The shots of you laughing so hard someone literally needs to break out their inhaler. The things you play over and over again in your head to remind you how much you’ve grown and what you appreciate.

I found myself making these montage moments in college, too. The problem was, I expected them all to be good. I erroneously assumed that when I went to college, I would be a different person in a new city.

On the unusually warm day that always creeps its way into February, I found myself in Central Park. It was the kind of day that had all of New York smiling. I made my way past dog walkers and kids being pushed in strollers to the carousel. Digging through my backpack for loose change, I hopped on a blue and gold lacquered horse. As our cyclical journey began, I saw every angle of the skyline, the sun glinting off the windows of buildings. I knew at the end of the ride that’s where I was meant to be.

Earlier the same morning, I spent half of my three-hour class at Lincoln Center in the bathroom crying after feeling overwhelmed with pressures from school and my own mental health.

It was the creation of my montage moment on the carousel that pulled me out of those feelings later.

Moving across the country to New York wasn’t like taking my problems and folding them into neat squares, then placing them in the dresser drawer. It was more like my problems were the pile of clothes crumpled on a chair in the corner of my room.

Over the years, I’ve realized capturing these defining moments about where you’re from and where you’re going are not always perfect. You get all of the miraculous parts along with the harmful ones.

Whether in Florida or New York, these memories have been instrumental to my growth. Both have given me things to remember and take with me wherever I end up post-grad.

Growing up, or the part of life where you become an actual adult, can happen anywhere and be anything. What catches you by surprise is how much time and emotional work it takes.

I think I still have a little more growing up left to do, which is why I’ll wait to see where the year takes me. Later, when I figure this whole “adult” thing out, I’ll replay those montage moments in my head and enjoy every moment.