November 18th, 2018

Three years ago, I came on this trip with a need for it to break me. It was my sophomore year and I was at a point in my life where I was shutting down by not expressing the emotion or hurt I was going through internally. My junior year was the opposite. I went on this trip from a place of constant tears and emotional stress. That Appalachia trip became the peace I had needed for so long. But it was only after those trips that I realized what they signified for me—points in my life where I was in desperate need of some sort of release. But as I sit here, on my third and final Appalachia trip, and look back at the place where I have experienced so much growth, I know exactly what this trip represents for me: closure.

I am a big fan of lasts—sentimental moments are the very best parts of life, in my opinion. And this trip is full of lasts. I even felt sad when I took my last shower here, and trust me, these bathrooms aren’t something I would normally miss. It’s the memories that have taken place here that I don’t want to let go. At home, I am making memories all the time, but they get jumbled in with the rest of life. Here, it is all memories. In a way, this is the place where I have seen myself grow up most. I’ve experienced every kind of emotion in this very place and each of them has shaped me in some way.

During this trip specifically, I haven’t felt much else besides sentiment. I was frustrated with this at first, like I was last year, until I realized that maybe I wasn’t supposed to be experiencing some sort of radical life change this year. Maybe I was supposed to take in every bit of the place I love most for one last time. I might never be fully ready to say goodbye to Appalachia, but after watching the last sunset over the trees on the mountain, I know that it is time. Time to take what I found here and remember it all. Time to be the version of myself I reunited with so many times in that gym. Time to acknowledge, no matter how badly I don’t want to yet, that I am growing up and my life is moving forward. While this may be the end of my Appalachia trips, I feel like it is more than that. It is the end of an era.

Photo Credits: Ava Dunwoody