Where The Heart Is

by Erica.

The skyscrapers of downtown LA twinkled on the left, Universal Studios on the right, and the houses below us flickered like fireflies as the people inside them headed to sleep. As my friend and I leaned against the guardrail, our eyes flitting around the valley below, we talked about leaving the city we grew up in, the food that we’d miss, the people that we’d remember, and every other memory that filled the ten years that we’d been friends. As the people in the valley below were only ending their days, here we were, on the side of the mountain, preparing to end a period of our lives that we held dear.

It was 1am on Wednesday, August 17th, and my flight to Texas was in 5 hours.

My summer before college went, in many ways, exactly how I’d imagined (and better). I went on a spur-of-the-moment road trip with one of my closest friends, drove around southern California with my cousin, ate at my favorite SoCal restaurants, all-in-all taking a plethora of good pictures and making a bevy of great memories with the people whom I loved the most.

Leaving California seemed, at the time, impossible. Leaving California was a decision that I questioned during every goodbye last summer, during every tight hug and drive away from the people and places and communities that I treasured the most. I loved the beaches, the traffic, the weather, the palm trees, and every place I had set foot in in the past seventeen years. I loved home.

The first several weeks in Austin were undoubtedly rough. The classes were interesting and the friends were nice, but the comfort of home seemed so absent in the fifty-thousand-student campus I now lived in. But just as VPSA was about finding ways to build friendships that transcended state lines, soon I realized college was about finding ways to ensure that home lives on from a thousand miles away.

It’s a process. It takes small moments, like my middle-school best friend—perhaps one of the people I associate ‘growing up’ with the most—coming to visit me at my new school, where I introduced her to my new friends, city, and life. As she sat and chatted with my college friends as if she too was a part of my new life, I began to understand that the geographical location did not matter as much as the people and memories that were attached to it. As the blend of the old and new continued, I began to find pieces of my old friends in my new friends—in the way they laughed, the things they found excitement in, and their shared love of endlessly roasting me.

But it’s still a process. It takes FaceTimes, Skype calls, texts, Snapchats, and every other form of interaction possible to bridge the distance that college has so brashly established. Some days I feel more at home in Austin than others, some days I wish I was back in Los Angeles more than others. Choosing to stay the summer in Texas instead of at home is a decision I pray I won’t be saddened by too much.

Making the trip back to LA will only continue to become harder. After this summer is sophomore year, then studying abroad, then who knows what kinds of internships, jobs, and opportunities will come my way. Perhaps they will land me back in California, perhaps they will keep me in Texas, or perhaps they will bring me to places I couldn’t even imagine. And so, life chugs on, ever moving forwards and upwards, occasionally making space to fly home for a moment, only bringing me back to Austin again.


During my last weekend at home this past summer, on the night of my going-away party, the overwhelming number of well-wishes and sentimental gifts drove me to text Allison and beg her to reassure me that everything was going to be okay.

“It seems like you’re leaving behind a lot,” she told me, “but that’s also because you can’t even imagine the things you’re going to experience in Austin. You literally can’t think of all the opportunities, the internships that will ignite passion in you, the friends that will stick by your side for the rest of your life, and the memories that will undoubtedly be some of your greatest.”

Freshman year is coming to a close, and I am over a thousand miles from where I was a year ago, but somehow, I feel at home.


Veronica and the California Coast

by Erica

Veronica flew out to California to spend a week of Christmas break with me–a familiar routine in VP friendships. It was the first time she had come to CA since the summer after sophomore year, but I had begged her to come out as a late birthday present, and being the incredibly gracious friend she is, obliged. And so, for several days, we trekked about southern California, going as far as we could possibly go in a day’s drive.

The last time I saw Veronica, I was at the Newark airport falling to pieces—VPSA friendships and open-ended goodbyes will do that to you. We were going off to college, one in Texas and one in Massachusetts, none of us sure when our paths would cross again. Seeing her a mere six months later was a much less daunting wait than anticipated (a welcome surprise regardless).

So here we were, one semester of college under our belts, both with our different five-month stories to tell. Having spent the last few years of our life in the same classes with the same friends, hearing her spout off names of people I had never heard of was jarring at first. But soon, after hours in the car and in coffee shops and on beaches, our individual college experiences, and friends, and more-than-friends (@Veronica) seemed to come to life in each other’s minds.

In between the catching up on life, we went to Santa Barbara and San Diego, perused around Los Angeles, got caught in the rain in Long Beach, and spent hours upon hours every day driving in heavy traffic and on open road. This was home, and Veronica was high school, and for a small period of time, Texas and college and all the responsibilities and worries that came with them seemed so miniscule.

I soon said goodbye to Veronica and to California and headed back to UT, where I am again for yet another semester. But these goodbyes felt easier than the first time I left for college. Even though I again was leaving home for five months, and I again didn’t know if I was going to next see Veronica in three months, or six, or twelve, or eighteen, my heart rested easier this time, more comforted, and more hopeful.