Tomorrow is the first day of a new semester. Last semester, I was overjoyed to finally be on my own and to pursue my dreams. This semester, my confidence is a little shaken. When I began my first semester at BYU, it was a bit of an experiment. I was barely seventeen, straight out of high school, and completely clueless about college. I knew that this semester could go any way I wanted, and I wanted it to go well. It certainly started off well. I received the highest grade in the class on my first paper, Calculus was a breeze thanks to my amazing high school teacher, and every day was filled with hours upon hours of free time to do as I pleased. Life seemed better than it had ever been. Unfortunately, about halfway through the semester, things took a turn for the worse.
For starters, I had never in my life experienced homesickness. I had spent weeks at various camps and activities, as well as on my aunt’s in-laws’ farm in eastern Washington. I had never had a very good relationship with my family, although we get along better now that I’m at college. So I never missed them much. All of my days spent away from home were packed with things to do and I hardly had a spare moment to myself. I always knew that I would be going home eventually and that each camp would be over in a week or so. Then I moved to college.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about Utah. I love the mountains, and I absolutely adore the red rocks in the south. I’ve never cared much for the culture though. I was born in Utah and we moved not too long after my first birthday. Since then, we’ve been down to Utah for a variety of trips to shop, attend summer camps, and visit family. I always knew that I’d be going to BYU someday, but that didn’t change the fact that Utah had always felt more like a vacation destination than a place of permanent residency.
The first bout of homesickness hit in mid-February. Classes were staring to get harder and all of my friends’ does were starting to kids back home. I had a Boer doe, Layla, who was expecting my first ever kid, and I was extremely anxious for her to kid. She had a beautiful doeling, who, despite her parents’ traditional coloring, came out marked as a paint. I was planning on going home in two weeks to see her, but those two weeks felt like months. I finally made it home to see my baby, but I was sad that I had missed her birth. Unlike my other goats, who scream when they see me, this little doe had no clue who I was and wanted nothing to do with me. I was sad, but I knew that she would eventually warm up to me.
I headed back to Provo, and that next week, I was hit with the first of many trials. Every week it felt like there was something new. Somehow, I made it through the month of March, but April only served to bring more hardship, starting with the very first day of the month. It was April Fool’s Day and one of my good friends had just gotten out of the hospital after losing part of his finger in a horse related accident. After everything I had gone through, I desperately hoped he was joking, but every word was the truth. It continued to go downhill from there. The one good things in a sea of bad was my roommates. I had been blessed with an apartment full of five of the most caring, loving girls. In particular, my roommate Katie was a huge source of strength and support. We were both struggling with similar things, and our hardships really brought us together. She may actually be the best thing that I got out of this semester.
Somehow, I made it through finals and the death of my beloved cockatiel, Chipper. After an exhausting night of moving into my new apartment, I set off for Idaho with my cousin. The weekend flew by. It was packed with 4-H meetings, paperwork, and making time to see my friends and family. As I stood outside the barn after my 4-H meeting, I wished that there were a way for me to bottle that feeling, the still and the calm of a warm summer day out in the middle of nowhere.
As I pulled out of the gravel patch we called a parking lot, I mulled over the words my 4-H leader had said. “You are always welcome here.” It was meant as a comforting reminder, but it almost felt like the end of an era. I had spent the last eight years here. Every week I looked forward to Saturday when I could escape the monotony of my life and breathe in the deep scent of horses and hay fields. It smelled like freedom. I had shed many drops of blood, sweat, and tears there. It was the place where I had learned some of my most important lessons. It was the place that I formed life long bonds, the place where I felt inescapable loss, and the place where I grew stronger and stronger as I faced fear after fear. This time last year, I was trying to understand the deaths of my 4-H club president and the horse who had taught me to ride. The barn became a painful reminder of what I had lost, but it soon became a beacon of hope as I pushed myself harder than I ever had before. The barn was woven through my past like threads in a tapestry, and there was no way I could ever lose those memories. Yet, somehow, last week felt different.
The whole reason that I’m at college right now is because of a crazy decision I made last year to graduate early. I knew that it would mean giving up some things, but until recently, I didn’t realize just how much I would have to leave behind. Yesterday, a neighbor and good friend of mine asked if I wanted to move my goats to the pasture in her front yard. I realized that I now had access to at least three different pastures. If I had been a junior in high school like I was supposed to, then that offer could have given me the opportunity to expand my herd, add some dairy goats, and eventually, maybe even a horse.
Last summer, when I learned to rope, my teacher offered to let me use one of his horses and go rodeo with his daughter. As I clicked through pictures of their district’s first high school rodeo last night, I realized that could have been me. I could be out there, right now, roping calves and tying goats and running barrels and queening, just like I had always dreamed. I know that graduating early was the right choice for me and every day I move closer to my goal of becoming a vet, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that. Growing up, I was always a serious child. I spent my life working hard and fighting for what I wanted. In my spare time, I took online classes and researched majors and vet schools. People always told me that I needed to spend more time being a kid, but I never listened. Now, I often wish that I had. I thought that I was ready for college, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be to leave it all behind.
I gave up so many opportunities that I may never have again. I know that I made the right choice, but it’s been really hard for me to cut ties and focus solely on school. I thought that I was ready for college, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be to leave it all behind. I did really well the first month here. It was after that, when all of the trials hit, that my faith began to falter. At home, I have so many ways to escape. I can lock myself in my room or pace my backyard or drive out to the barn or collapse in a pasture. Here, I don’t have a car or any connections. I’m basically stuck. Where before, I could hug a horse or weed the garden, now I don’t even have the luxury of a quiet walk down the street. I wouldn’t mind the hustle and bustle of the city that much if I had a way to escape, a way to be alone with my thoughts in the still of nature. Though I faced worse trials last year, the sheer inability to go to a safe place made this year so much harder.
Thanks to this past semester at college, I know what homesickness is now. It’s more than just a desire to be home, among familiar faces and surroundings. Homesickness for me is the whisper of the wind as it weaves through fence posts, the whir of a crop duster swooping overhead, the dust billowing up from a tractor plowing a field. Homesickness is wanting to be in a town, to live in a place where there are hayfields and pastures full of cows in the middle of town, a place where people bring horse trailers to Home Depot and Walmart is filled with people wearing camo, a place where you see an old man in a cowboy hat driving a Cadillac, a place where people have gun racks in their pickups and garages full of mounted deer. I miss living somewhere where multiple teachers and students are gone on the first day of hunting season, somewhere people ride dirt bikes and drive RVs to school. I miss being related to just about everyone in the next two towns and boots being worn everywhere with everything.
Homesickness is craving the ability to go for a run and to not see a single person. Jokes about potatoes and trips to the dairy for huckleberry ice cream. Homesickness is missing people who actually know what huckleberries are. Also people who don’t compliment your boots and then exclaim that they want a pair for country dancing. Plus people in your classes who can draw an accurate picture of a cowboy, because they’ve not only met multiple cowboys, but they have a rancher somewhere in their family. People who wear camo to class. People who are beyond proud of their Grand Champion sweatshirts and cutting belt buckles. People who live for the fair, regardless of whether they’ve ever shown an animal. People who spend their weekends four wheeling and shooting. These are my people. I knew the culture of Utah was different, but I didn’t think that a four hour drive would change things to the point where I no longer felt at home.
I could pack up and move to anywhere in Idaho, even Boise, and I would feel more at home than I do here in Provo. I knew Idaho was unique, but I didn’t realize that we lived in our own little world. In all my years of traveling this country, I never realized just how unique our crazy state was. We’re an entire state full of people who have farming and ranching in our blood, regardless of whether or not we currently work in agriculture. I love that, I live for that, and I never ever want to live anywhere else. Unfortunately, there’s this whole school thing.
I’ve learned from last semester and I plan on making myself as busy as possible this semester to keep my mind off of home. It will be hard because at home there is always something that needs to be done, and here I can be done with everything I need to do by three in the afternoon, but somehow I’ll manage. Staying busy should help a lot. But I know that there will always be days when I look out the window at the construction or when I walk through crowds of people on my way to class and I crave the breeze gently rustling through the trees or even the fierce Idaho winds threatening to tear things from their roots. I just need to focus on the end goal. The harder I work now, and the more things I give up, the better my life will be in the future. In the end, all of this sacrifice will be worth it. I just need to hold on to that hope for the future and have faith in Heavenly Father and His eternal plan for me.