College Stories 2011: Throwing Out the Map

Throwing Out the Map

by Megan Winterhalter ’11

Ever since I was 6 years old, whenever my family would go on a trip, I would pull out the huge book of road maps my dad always packed and figure out where we were headed. My mom thought it was funny; funny that a 6-year-old was concerned with driving directions instead of being concerned about more important 6-year-old things like Barbie or I Spy.

Now, it all seemed ironic to me. Here was a girl who grew up with a great sense of direction, and at 21 years old she had absolutely no idea where she was going.

The air burned through my lungs. Even being Northern-born doesn’t prepare you for the first bitter cold in Chapel Hill. It also didn’t help that I probably hadn’t ran in about a month. I don’t like running. I’d rather ride a bike or play a sport. Running is a last resort in my book. But today I just needed to get out.

To say that I didn’t know where I was would be inaccurate. I knew exactly where I was geographically. I had explored the Battle Creek trail enough to know that if I went right I would end up near the Forest Theatre, on the northeastern-ish side of campus.

Where I was headed on the road of life — that was what I wasn’t so sure about.

I decided to go right, to head toward campus.

Thoughts raced through my mind, bouncing around, triggering new ones to manifest, creating a jumble in my head.

In six months I would graduate and then what? For the past 21 years, just like my family trips, I knew exactly what the next turn in my life was. But now, I had no clue. What am I doing? Where am I going?

The answer kept coming up as one giant question mark.

And currently this question mark was causing me to do something I didn’t like doing, in weather that I didn’t like to be in.

I stopped running.

The thought had popped into my head just like the ones before it, but this one was very different. It wasn’t a question, but rather, a suggestion.

Maybe not knowing could be a good thing.

I thought about the past four years of college. About how many things I hadn’t seen coming. About how many of my most favorite memories were almost always serendipitous.

I walked onto campus; barely anyone was out because it was so cold. I walked past the Old Well and across the upper quad. I had been so focused on where I was headed that I forgot to stop and celebrate where I was. I shook my head and headed home.

Megan Winterhalter ’11 majored in journalism and mass communication. She plans to pursue a career in advertising and continue writing.