Category Archives: Thoughts

Road trips will always be near to my heart

When I was very young, perhaps four or five, I remember my dad waking me before the sun was even up. He scooped me in his arms, blankets and all, and carried me to our family van. Strapping on my seatbelt, I settled in and rubbed my groggy eyes. My brothers and sister scrambled in after me.

My mother said a prayer before we began, and then we were on our way.

This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. At least three times a year, for as long as I can remember, my family would pack up the van and head out on our next road trip.

Most of the time, it was either to visit my grandparents and dad’s side of the family in Pennsylvania, who live about a 12 hour drive away; or to vacation in Florida where my parent’s own a timeshare, which is about a 17 hour drive.

Needless to say, long road trips don’t really phase me.

In fact, road trips are good for my heart. Back out onto the road, with nothing planned for the next day except to get passed the next exit. I would always bring stacks of books with me and plenty of crayons to color with in my coloring books to keep me busy. My brothers would bring DVDs so they could watch on my dad’s laptop and my sister was content with just her music. But the best part is not having to do anything.

Of course, there were also some rougher memories as well. I can’t tell you how many times my father threatened to “pull this car over!” and how many times he followed through. Or how many times one of my brothers were grounded for teasing me, or how many times I cried as a result of their teasing.

There was one particularly bad trip to my grandparent’s house one year during Christmastime. It had snowed so much (I think at least a foot, but probably more) that almost all of the exits were closed. My parents were tired and it was near 10 p.m. but we hadn’t eaten dinner yet due to the snow. There had been so much traffic that we watched all three Lord of the Rings movies – extended editions, mind you – just in the state of Ohio.

Note: Ohio does not normally take 12 hours to drive through.

We finally found an open exit and my dad pulled off. We turned into the first restaurant and just as my mom walked up to the door, the manager changed to sign from open to closed. My mother was furious and we were all crabby, but we finally managed to find an open Steak ‘n Shake. My two brothers were constantly teasing and picking on me as we ordered and waited for our food. I remember that I ordered chicken fingers and fries. My brother said one more mean comment and I snapped; I took a chunk of my chicken tender, dipped it in ketchup, and then shoved it in my brother’s face and smeared it all over.

In my head, I didn’t expect him to retaliate so fast. :P

He was shoving his food in my face as well and my mother was screaming at us both. My other brother was cackling in glee, while my dad and sister were oblivious to the whole debacle, absorbed in their own conversation at the other end of the table.

We both were grounded.

But even these memories we laugh about now. (I still take the stance that my brother deserved it.)

On Friday night, just like the old days, my family prepared for a road trip. There are some differences today. My parents no longer own a purple van so we took two separate cars instead. My eldest brother didn’t join us for this trip, but our family expanded last year, so Andrew was joining us for the first time.

Despite all of these differences, some things never change. Vacation in the Gray family remains the same: Daytona Beach, Florida.

A Letter to me at 18

I will be graduating college in three weeks, and it’s all starting to really hit me. I look back and think of how far I have come and wish I could have given myself some advice. So this is a letter to eighteen-year-old me as I’m entering as a young naive college freshman.

Dear Becca,

These next four years are not going to be the best four years of your life, like everyone is going to say they will. You won’t instantly bond with your suite mates and become BFFs with every girl in your dorm hall. You aren’t going to go to any crazy parties full of debauchery. You’re going to wear your heart on your sleeve and people who say they will do things for you and be there for you are going to turn right around and throw your heart on the ground without even realizing what they’ve done. Andrew and you will get into the biggest fight and almost break up. (You’ll work it out though, don’t worry). For the next four years, you are going to struggle with depression. The first two years will be the worst.

But you are going to grow in ways you’ve never thought possible. You are going to start breaking out of the little comfort zone you’ve carefully built around you the last eighteen years. Your roommate is going to be the best answer to any prayer that you’ve every prayed. She will laugh hysterically with you and love you and serve you and cry with you. You will stay up all night eating chocolate and watching movies. You will fall more in love with Andrew every single day and he will never grow out of wearing shorts in December, even though you think someday he will. It’s okay, it only will make you love him more.

You are going to rock a business suit and give such a killer presentation that CEOs from around Kansas City don’t have any advice on how to improve. (Don’t even bother with the notes.)

Speak up in class and get to know your professors. You are so quiet, and that’s okay, but don’t be quiet just because you are afraid of what other people think of you. You will get some great advice from a professor your senior year, even though you aren’t going to like hearing it and it’s not going to be easy to take. But listen and be bold. People aren’t always going to like you, so don’t try to please them. Just speak.

Don’t eat the cafeteria food pizza. Just don’t.

Also don’t work two jobs. No amount of money is worth the stress that you will put on yourself between two jobs and school. It all works out financially in the end. So take a bigger loan (this is the only time you will ever hear me say this) and stop being so hard on yourself. You’re going to have a heart attack at 25 if you keep on this way. God always provides.

Lastly, relish the present. You are going to say “I can’t wait til I graduate!” as your own personal mantra, but enjoy where you are. You’ve got a good group of friends who you are going to leave behind when you graduate. This is the only time you will have when you are all still together. You are going to grow to love the city and all the people around you. Hold on to that for as long as you can.

So no, these are not the best four years of your life. But at the end, you will know where you started and appreciate all the more how far you have come. That’s what makes it worth it, not the piece of paper they give you. So take a deep breath because you are so much more than you think.