Finding Their Way

Adjusting to life after high school is a challenge. So many things have changed, it's sometimes hard to cope. Andy worries about grades and a difficult roommate situation. Alicia feels like she's losing contact with old friends, especially Susan. Kayla and Carlos both seem caught up in their new lives. And David is lonely and far from home.

Andy feels the pressures of attending a challenging college, but Kayla’s visit gives him the break he needs.

Andy worries about his grades and his mother.

I’m trying hard to get this biology lab written up before Kayla gets here. It’s her first visit, and I want to make sure she has fun, that she comes back. I don’t want to have to worry about getting work done while she’s here. Just kick back and have some fun myself. But for now, I need to focus and get organized, do a good job. It’s just so hard to study in the dorm, though.

Click here to watch Kayla and Andy talk – Part 1. (dialup  OR broadband)

It’s a relief in a way when Kayla knocks on my door and gives me an excuse to take a break. For the first time in my life, I’m worried about my grades. High school was pretty easy. I studied, sure, but I always got A’s and B’s, no problem. Here, it’s different. I look around me in class and I’m with all these valedictorians and people who’ve been all over the world. I’ve only been out of Virginia once in my life – and that was when I was two and my parents took me to see my dad’s family in North Carolina. So now I’m not the smartest kid in class. Not even close.

That’s not all bad, I guess. I’m pushing myself harder than I ever have, but it’s frustrating, too. Like this C I’m getting in physics. Me, a C! And I’ve got to keep a 3.0 or else my scholarships won’t automatically renew. I went to see the professor, and he was no help. Just said to reread the textbook, like I hadn’t thought of that already. And join a study group. I don’t know how to do that, though. I mean, study group? With who?

My roommate doesn’t seem to worry about a thing. He’s out partying practically every night and skips class all the time. But his parents, they paid for everything. If he fails out, he’ll have other chances. Not me. This is it. I gotta shine, or else I go nowhere.

And Kayla gets that. I guess cuz she’s in the same place, you know?

Click here to watch Kayla and Andy talk – Part 2. (dialup  OR broadband)

After Kayla left, I called my mom again to check in. She wasn’t home. It’s a Saturday night, and my Mama’s out?

I wish Kayla were still here. I guess I feel connected to her in a way I don’t with anyone here on campus. It’s funny. In high school, we all thought she was so out there. But now, she’s different. It’s like she’s the smart one, on top of everything.

“Stay cool,” she said when she left. I’m trying, but it’s hard. There’s just so much pressure here. I like it, sure, but I’m not comfortable. Not yet.

Kayla thinks about the changes she sees in her friendships.

Kayla and Andy reconnect on campus.

It was so good to see Andy! It’s funny how you can know somebody pretty much your whole life, and then, in a different place, you’re different together. Sometimes that’s bad, like when I see Susan. We used to be such good friends. Now, we just don’t have much to say to each other. I mean, I’m really into what I’m doing and happy, maybe for the first time in my life, and she’s just kind of drifting along in this dream world of hers. I used to be like that, too, but I’m past that now. I guess I’ve grown up, and she hasn’t. It makes me want to shake her.

But Andy, I see him and it’s great! He’s so serious and passionate about what he’s doing and what he wants, without being all superior or anything about how smart he is. I can just be myself with him, and he’s right there with me. It’s really cool.

Susan and Alicia meet at the community college library.

Alicia misses seeing her friends regularly.

Even though I was expecting her, I didn’t recognize Susan right away. She stood in the door for a minute, looking around, and then, all of a sudden, it clicked into place who this was. “Susan!” I yelled from the computer terminal where I was researching Impressionism for my art history class. The guy next to me gave me a dirty look. Like I care!

I ran over and gave her a big hug. “I can’t believe we’re finally seeing each other.” She smiled and gave me such a Susan look! I can’t describe it, but it’s so uniquely her. I remember once looking at her baby pictures, and there it was, that same quick half-smile, sort of like the Mona Lisa, not quite looking at you, but looking at you, too. “I miss you!” I said.

She laughed. “I know. Me, too! Can you believe we go to the same school and never see each other?”

I was lucky; I placed out of most of the intro classes and so I’m taking almost all art classes this year. But that means there’s almost no overlap with what Susan takes. The only required course we both take is English Composition, this super boring class where we practice our writing skills. It’s hard for me to take it seriously. I’m not ever gonna be a writer! We couldn’t make our schedules match, though, so she’s in another section and we have no classes together. Plus, I’m living at home, and she’s got an apartment and we both have jobs. It doesn’t leave us a lot of time.

“Let’s get outta here,” I said. “Go get something to eat.” I was the one who called her up, arranged this whole study thing, but now it felt all wrong. We’d never be able to talk here.

“Sure,” she said. “I just wanna check out this book for my psyche class.”

I raised my eyebrows at that. Susan’s never really been what you’d call a good student.

She laughed at my face. “Yes, Susan. I study now,” she said. “Hold on while I get it, okay? It’ll only take a minute.” She walked into the stacks and left me to log out and get my coat on.

Later, as we sat down with our burgers, I asked, “So what’s this about you studying?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I mean, everything here is so hard, way harder than I thought it would be.” Her voice kinda trailed off.


Even though she regrets not attending a four-year college, Susan is enjoying her classes at community college.

“So I guess I have to study now.” She shrugged. “And I have this really cool psyche class. You should see the professor. He comes to class with his dog and walks around barefoot!” She sounded so excited.

“Is he cute?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes. “He’s like fifty years old or something. I just like the class.”

“Really?” I couldn’t believe it. This was so not-Susan. She just always drifted along, doing whatever. I liked that about her. It made her more open, somehow.

“Yeah. I think I might want to be a psyche major.”

“Really?!!” I said again. I’d have to get used to this Susan-with-a-plan.

“Yes, really!” She fiddled with some packets of ketchup. “I just think it’s so cool, learning about what makes people do what they do,” she paused and looked at me, really looked at me. “What makes me do what I do.”

But then her face went back to that same old Susan look. “I’ve gotta figure out the money thing, though. I mean, I’ll have to transfer to a real college if I want to be a psychologist.”

“Susan!” It made me mad to hear her talk like that. “This is a real college.” I forget sometimes how seriously she took it that she got rejected at the four-year colleges she applied to. I thought of my program as real enough. I sure was learning stuff that I didn’t know before.

“I know, I know,” she said. And changed the subject. “So, what do you hear from Carlos?” She shot me a sideways glance.

“Nothing,” I laughed. She thinks Carlos has a thing for me, but I swear, he never talks to me. “You know, he came home for fall break and didn’t call!”

“You’re kidding me!” She sounded disbelieving. “You really haven’t heard from him at all?” I’d been surprised, too.

“Well, he did email me some story that’s gonna get published in the school magazine. It was pretty good, believe it or not!”

“Was it a love story?” she giggled.

I shook my head. “It was about some guy who hears voices and you’re never really sure if the voices are real or in his head.”

“In his head, I’m sure,” Susan said, laughing again. And then added without skipping a beat, “I miss doing this.”

I knew exactly what she meant. It’s been hard, this moving on business. Everything feels so strange. I mean, we’ve all been together so long. I guess I thought it would always be that way. Things change, I guess, and I’ve just got to get used to it.

David’s away at automotive school when his girlfriend from back home calls to break up.

David is lonely and too far from home.

I didn’t expect it to be like this. Everyone says, college, the time of your life. But if this is as good as it gets, then I should end it now.

Audrey finally called me back. I knew what she was gonna say – had been expecting it since last weekend when she was too busy to see me – but still, it sucked to hear it. “Uh, David,” she started. “You know I really care about you and will always want to be a part of your life, but right now, I’m just too busy with school to be in a relationship.” I swear, she sounded like she was reading off a piece of paper. “I think we should just be friends.”

I couldn’t say anything, couldn’t ask her about the new guy she was seeing or the promises she’d made. So I stayed quiet, and that made her mad. “I can’t believe you’re acting like this!” she said. “You knew when you left how hard it was gonna be. Don’t make it out like this is all my fault.” And then she started crying. I don’t get it.

“Whatever,” was all I could muster and then I hung up.

I tried calling her back for the rest of the night, but she wouldn’t pick up. She finally text-messaged me, “It’s OVER. Leave me alone.”

I tried calling Carlos next, but all he wanted to talk about was getting his story published and how much he hated his pre-med courses and thought he was going to fail them, but he didn’t care, because he never wanted to take them anyway, and his parents were going to have to deal with it because it was his life anyway. And then he had to go. I didn’t say a thing.

Maybe I should just drop out and go home.

I’m still lying on the sofa, flicking through the channels, when my roommate comes back. He’s in the same program as me, but a year ahead. We’re only living together because his last roommate got kicked out for not going to classes and he needed somebody to take his place fast.

“I drank a Red Bull,” he says and shows me how his hands are shaking. “I gotta do something.” He back flips off the sofa and pulls his golf clubs out of the closet. “Wanna play?” He means in the apartment. We don’t have a lot of furniture, so it’s perfect for miniature golf. He throws the sofa cushions on the floor, “Sand pit!” he yells, and gets out some other stuff.

We start putting, and it’s harder than you’d think to hit a ball into a cereal box. Justin’s cracking jokes nonstop, and I can tell he’s wired. But it’s working. I’m laughing.

“Yo, you heading out this weekend?” he asks.

“Nah,” I say. “Audrey and I are kinda over.”

“Cool,” he says. “Alright if we have a party here, then?”

So there it is. A new start. Just like that.