BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The boy's eyes spring open and his hand smashes the top of the alarm clock. He rubs his eyes and looks at the clock... 3 AM. The boy reaches up and turns on his light. The light is blinding forcing him to shut his eyes. " Why is my heart beating so fast?" thought the boy, "it's just college." He stays in bed for several minutes contemplating whether or not he should get up. The boy's thoughts are suddenly interrupted by a knocking on the door. "Erik, are you awake? We are leaving in 45 minutes, make sure you have everything packed," states the mother. "Yea ma,  I am getting up," replies the boy tiredly. The boy hops out of bed and heads into the shower. The hot water relaxes the boy and brings thoughts to his mind, "college will be the best four years of my life.I am going to train everyday and make the team. I am going to prove everyone wrong." Excitement fills the boy's body and lyrics fill the shower.  "Stop singing and get ready!" shouted the Mother. The boy hops out, brushes his teeth and throws on a towel. He opens the door slowly and pops his head out. Upon sticking his head out, he sees his Mom at the top of the stairs. "Are you almost ready?" asks the mother. "I'll be ready in five minutes!" exclaims the boy.  "Can you please make me breakfast?" asks the boy. The boy waits for an answer and impatiently screams,  "you have to do it because it's the last time you will ever do it!" The boy continues,  "plus, your last breakfast was good, but it wasn't great and you know I love you.... so..... I don't want you ending on a bad note," joked the boy. 
          Before heading downstairs, the boy goes into his room to change and grab his luggage. As he leaves the room, a sense of fear overwhelms the boy. Memories flood his brain, "I wish I could go back to high school. I am really going to miss this place. Am I making the right decision? What if I don't like it down there? What if I don't make it and what if I fail?" As he scans his room, he sees his high school football poster, a smile fills his face. The boy takes a deep breath and heads downstairs. The boy is greeted by a man and a woman, "good morning, are you ready to start college? " The boy sighs and walks over to the table and eats breakfast. He finishes his meal, looks at his mother and gives her a thumbs up. "That was delicious, but I would hate to see you lose this skill, so when I return for Thanksgiving I am going to need this exact meal. Remember, practice makes perfect,"  smiles the boy. His mother returns the smile and responds, "let us worry about getting you there first." The boy cleans his plate and says his goodbyes. "Riley, I am going to miss you the most." The dog embraces the boy and licks his face. The boy latches onto Riley for one last hug. He kisses the dog on the forehead and heads over to the other man in the room. He looks at his father and says goodbye, not many words are spoken, but the boy can see the love in his father's eye. He shakes his hand and heads out the door. Fear and excitement fill the boy's stomach. "How long of a drive is this?" asked the boy." About eight to nine hours," replies the mother. The boy's stomach drops and nervous shakes take over his body. "I want to go back home, I am not ready to leave, I made a mistake!" exclaimed the boy. "Erik, you have made your decision, now you must deal with it," said the mother.  "Go in the car and close your eyes, when you awake, we will have arrived."

       Two years have passed, and the boy is no longer the same boy. Nevertheless, he still has the same fears....

       BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The boy jumps out of bed and runs toward the bathroom. He pulls the shower curtain open and turns on the water.  The boy pulls out his phone and logs into facebook, "Thailand, here I come!" the boy writes.  He puts the phone down and jumps into the shower. The boy closes his eyes and welcomes the hot water on his face. The warm water calms his mind and sends him into deep thought, "I am going to become batman, he went on his journey, now it is time for me to go on my journey." The boy's mind continues to wander. " I hope I don't get lost in the airport, oh my god! What if I can't find my flight and I miss it..." Just like two years ago, fear fills his body and his stomach drops into emptiness. "Erik! We have to go!" screamed the mother. "We have to leave in 10 minutes or you will miss your flight; breakfast is already on the table." The boy escapes his thoughts and heads downstairs. He grabs his luggage and his breakfast, "I will eat it on the way," says the boy. "Dad, are you coming to?" asks the boy. The father responds excitedly, "of course! I can't trust your mother driving, she might get you lost." 
      The boy arrives to the airport. The mother and father walk him to the gate and say goodbye. The boy shakes his father's hand, few words are spoken, but the few words are enough.  The boy turns his attention toward his mother, whose eyes are slowly filling with tears. "Ma, everything is going to be okay, I will be back in six weeks, " says the boy. "Just make sure you message me each time you land and ask people questions if you need help," replies the mother. The boy hugs his mother goodbye and walks to wait in line. As he walks over toward the line, he turns his head and sees his parents waving goodbye. The mother and father soon leave, and the boy is left all alone. The boy smiles and walks faster to get in line. As he approaches the line, his stomach drops and his body trembles. The fear of the unknown has struck him again, just like two years ago. However, the boy is no longer the same boy that he once was. Motivation and confidence fuel the boy's thoughts,  " If I made it to college, I can make it to Thailand" 

      I hope you enjoyed my small attempt at the Alchemist, if you have read the book, then you can see where I copied him. Nevertheless, the story above actually happened and there is no Alchemist in this story, but there is a valuable lesson learned. I told you this story because I am having those same fears in my stomach. Three years have passed since traveling to Thailand and much has changed. Granted, I still have my fears, but I do not fear the unknown. Rather, I welcome the unknown, and look forward to meeting it.
     The current unknown is my life after college. I will be moving to California in August and I am scared, but excited. You see, every time I embraced the fear in my stomach something good happened. It didn't happen right away, but in time I found my reward. When I was in Thailand, I remember begging my parents to send me an earlier flight. I was lonely, depressed and still had a month left. Luckily, my parents were smart and ignored my wishes. They forced me to get comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. This was the best gift a son could ever ask for from his parents. Thailand taught me to be confident in myself and to trust the journey. In a way, it is the same thing as weight loss. Losing weight doesn't happen overnight nor does gaining confidence in yourself, but if you trust the process, eventually you are rewarded. Being healthy and having confidence is a skill, and, the beautiful thing about being human is you can enhance these skills. Be it through exercise, sleep or healthy foods, you can increase confidence in the same sense. I believe that we learn best through action. The easiest way to increase confidence is through traveling and experience. If you want to become confident then you must do the things that scare you. This is why I look forward to the unknown, it forces growth through adaptation. You may not realize it, but the world is changing every second. If your perspective doesn't change neither will the world. And, if there is no change then growth cannot occur, it is a curse and a blessing; growth only occurs through stress. It is the yin and yang of life, you need some bad to appreciate the good. Yes, I am afraid of change and I fear leaving my college life, but that life has been written. Those memories have been made, friends have been met and love has been felt. After all, “ It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”- Author of the Alchemist, Paulo Coelho.  

       Nothing I write can compare to The Alchemist nor do I want it to, but I will do my best rendition... "The heart did not go away overnight nor will it come back as quickly as it left.Thus, you must ask it to return, but the only way to ask is to listen. So close your eyes and wait for an answer. "