I got off the plane at 11:00PM. After frantic packing, driving an hour to catch a plane in Grand Rapids, and experiencing a two-hour lay-over in Baltimore, I finally made it to my warm 85 degree homeland to visit my father – and I’d gotten away from my rather cold days as a permanent visitor at a college with no family for miles. Though I enjoyed the classes, hanging outs in coffee shops, the intellectual conversations in dorms, and the perpetual uncertainties of the weather in Michigan, I was excited to venture into the familiar territory of Florida. I was eager to finally seize the opportunity of a weekend at home, a pleasure not often obtained by a Non-Michigander, or a Non-Midwesterner, for that matter. Although I had left on a Wednesday for this trip, informed my professors that I would be gone, and finished my homework early, little did I know a day off of classes for everyone was in store: Day of Gracious Living was announced for that very Friday. My Michigan adventures became an Atlantic Ocean escapade and family bonding.
My real journey in the sunshine state began on a Thursday. Though it was my first trip home, I seized the opportunity to play tennis, the sport I play at Kalamazoo College, with my brother on familiar courts. I hadn’t seen my brother, Marc, since December; the demand of a full time job with the Tampa Bay Rays had him traveling around the US during my last time home over break. Marc, an avid baseball watcher and player, still competed fervently against me in a match. After three hours in the beating sun, Marc had defeated me 2 out of 3 sets: 6-4, 5-7, and 6-1. Having lived in Michigan for so long now and being accustomed to the mercurial weather, I forgot the importance of sunscreen. Now, I had become a true Florida “Snow Bird” or tourist. I walked off the court with a strong enough sunburn to look like a lobster. Though I acquired a hurtful burn, day one in Florida was a great success; little did I know the happiness in store for the next day.
I woke up on Friday morning upset that I was missing my classes. I am an avid learner, and I enjoy attending my two psychology courses and language course. I was used to the life of attending class and being engaged in the material for the whole day. I checked my phone hoping to text my friend to see if we could talk about class when it was over, but instead I was greeted with a friendly email on my iPhone from the Student Commission President. “Live graciously; School is off today!” In sum, the email stated that the classes I was missing were canceled anyway. All of my friends were venturing to the lake while I was in Florida. My dad, so elated by the good news, suggested we make our own Florida “DoGL” (Day of Gracious Living). He skipped work, and we went to Cocoa Beach, a popular Florida beach spot. My skin’s lobster-like quality continued as I now burned my back and face with this beach adventure.
I spent Saturday helping my dad work, and packed for my Sunday flight home to Michigan. Saturday was my mental preparation for a return to reality. Though I had enjoyed my trip greatly in Florida, I knew it was important for me to go back to college and complete the remaining three weeks of my freshman academic career. Three more weeks and I will be back in Florida for a similar adventure. This time, I will live graciously in Florida for a week before I head out on a new voyage to Raymond, Maine for a summer job.