On September 1st, 2006 I was walking through the streets of Yellow Springs, two huge suitcases behind me, looking for Antioch College. I hadn’t visited before. I didn’t know what any American college looked like. (Actually, I still don’t know.)
I got scared at first. I’ve told the story many times of how I missed the class photo because I was busy sobbing “I want to go hoooome” in Weston Hall. I was twenty one years old and had crossed two oceans, two straits, one canal in the past three years but I was scared to death. It was the first time I had to live on my own, as an adult, in the world. At 16 I had dropped out of school, and at 18 I had raised anchor to flee an unbearable reality and sworn to come back only when I felt strong enough to fight everything that had made me leave in the first place. But I felt completely lost, helpless and had no idea what to do with myself when I first set foot on the Antioch campus. Something had been missing from the trip, apparently, because I didn’t remember why I was here or what in me made me believe that I was up to the task of living in the real world.
It was hard to run back home into my dad’s arms, though, mainly because my home, catamaran Echoes, was anchored in Phuket, Thailand, at that time. So I set out to get through the term with the atrocious knot of anguish in the pit of my stomach, fly back home in December, and go back to living on the margins, the only thing I felt capable to do. I had no doubt that I wasn’t cut for a life in society, as I could barely breathe from the anxiety of being alone in Ohio, in this strange place full of impressive people.
As I sat in McGregor 113 during the SOPP orientation on my second day at Antioch, my general state of panic relapsed for a while. For the first time I saw a group of 3rd and 4th years, who were explaining the SOPP to my class. I was fascinated. These people looked so wonderful! They seemed to embody all the contradictions of their condition and flaunt them shamelessly; they looked extremely sensitive, but tough; they looked ready to take on the world but humbled by the consciousness of what the task involved. Most of all, they looked happy, strong, and liberated. With no excuses and no regrets. Watching them, I thought that this was what I had always wanted to become, and if Antioch did that to people, I had to stay and see what would happen to me.
It’s been a year and half now, and who knows if I’ll ever graduate from Antioch College? But from these three terms, that have seemed like three new oceans to cross (the last one in hurricane season), I have received more from Antioch that I can ever give back. My emancipatory trip is finally complete: even though my education is just starting, I now remember what I am doing here. Just like I had the feeling that I could go anywhere and find back internal peace by carrying the vision of an horizon line inside me, I now feel like I could go anywhere, be faced with any challenge or struggle, and never loose confidence of my inner capacity to overcome them. All I’ll have to do is to remind myself of that inner conviction that will make me smile in pride, as if I were part of a shared-secret that opened for me skies unknown to others: “I am an Antiochian”.