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BEZAWADA: Students should take time away from worrying about future

Opinions Column: Traipse the Fine Line

Hanging out with family is great, especially for us college students. After spending weeks at the residence hall avoiding them and their drag-you-off-the-bed-by-the-legs, “back-in-my-day” justification for everything, it is always nice to return home to the familiar dysfunctional monotony of your siblings’ whining, lectures on the dangers of weight gain and the sudden, suspiciously coincidental influx of chores.

Vacations are even better. You know why? Because you get all of the above but doubled — in an otherwise free portable package (excluding your privacy) with an optional addition of several thousand dollars in airline fees!

This spring break, we arranged a trip to San Francisco, California, thanks to my parents’ time and effort. The decision was a bit risky. My sister’s spring break does not coincide with Rutgers’, so she would miss a week’s work of school. And as my dismal luck would have it, the very Friday before the break began, I lost my folder containing all the study materials required for two midterms scheduled right after. And I broke my laptop. My parents’ reaction — disappointed, to say the least. Plane tickets were already purchased, no refunds allowed. I tried to be excited. Well, as excited as all students try to be as life falls apart around them.

My only consolation was our destination: the Golden State. I had never been there before, and I was determined to enjoy it no matter what.

Let us just say, with the way things were going, drama was bound to get in the way.

The funny thing about road trips is that there is no escape. When you are at home, you can lock yourself in your room and scroll away on your phone, and there is no way your parents could catch you until they open your door. So you have a split-second chance to look like you have been studying. In a car, though, you are exposed, and there is no way you are running out on a 10-lane-wide highway with vehicles hurtling past at more than 60 miles an hour. Plus, if you are like me, you usually do not see or help your family much during the Rutgers school week.

Which, on the 4-hour car ride from San Francisco International Airport to Yosemite National Park, indubitably translates to:

"Sruti, watch how your father parallel parks."

"Don’t use that tone with your sister!"

"How many clubs have you joined?"

"I was suggesting this hotel, why did you go with that other one? WHY DO YOU KEEP COMPLAINING?"

Cue millions of eye rolls, exasperated sighs and infuriating misunderstandings, only triggering my parents further. During the trip, the incessant infighting, sulking, bickering and blaming seemed insurmountable and I was ready to give up on the Yosemite adventure. But we persisted, and it made the long journeys to Yosemite, San Francisco Chinatown, the attractions on the Piers, Muir Woods National Monument and the Golden Gate Bridge and State Park all the more memorable. In fact, now when we look back on the petty things we fought about, it was all nothing — even funny — compared to the impact of the overall experience. I had yearned to see Yosemite and the giant redwood trees native to California since I was 5 years old, and the sight was everything I wanted it to be. The only true downsides were the gorgeous snowglobe from a visitor's center I had to abandon due to airline liquid restrictions, and that we could not hike the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge.

And the fact that I barely studied for my midterms. Let us keep that hush-hush for my sake, please.

There is an interesting phenomenon my roommate and I experience sometimes — while on a walk or heading to the dining hall — that when we do not have our book and laptop-filled backpacks hanging off our shoulders and weighing us down, we feel strangely vulnerable. The cold wind blows on our backs during those rare occasions, a chilling sensation both literally and figuratively. It is the sense of heart-racing fear that comes with possibly forgetting something essential, "oh, no, did I lose my phone?" and enduring the mental turmoil between denial and reluctant acceptance that you actually did, "well, I guess I gotta live with whatever happens next." We are so accustomed to dealing with the terrifyingly vague “future” that we feel physically odd when we are not.

It was a giant, frustrating two-in-one package of losing my most important belongings right when I needed them most and a whole lot of fighting. But it also included the heat of the San Francisco tropics warming my back, the rainy mist of Bridalveil Falls spraying my face, the rumbling beneath my feet as I trekked the Golden Gate Bridge, the imposing bulk of EL Capitan looming over my body and the canopies of mighty redwoods soaring far beyond my sight.

And, man, would I pay for that package a million times over.

Sruti Bezawada is a Rutgers Business School first-year double majoring in marketing and communications and minoring in Japanese. Her column, “Traipse the Fine Line,” runs every alternate Wednesday.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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