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Goeun Park: Powering through naive fantasy, columnist makes it to college

“Excuse me, what state are we in?”

“South Dakota. That’ll be $1.34,” the lady behind the counter said without batting an eye. I purchased my coffee and looked at my phone: 4:20 a.m.

That was last Wednesday. For the better part of last week, my family took a road trip on our way to Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. We shot across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains in the name of purchasing obligatory souvenirs from famous landmarks.

It was a grand old time. I could go on about the desert heat at Hoover Dam, the mindboggling size of the Grand Canyon, or even the glittering lights of Vegas, but personally, the most delightful stop was Frisco, Colo.

Frisco is a small town deep in the Rocky Mountains with an elevation of 9,097 feet. That’s almost two miles above sea level. Frisco is beautiful and charming and not inherently different than any other small mountain town in Colorado.

What made me adore Frisco had very little to do with the actual town itself. Since middle school, I’ve harbored an incredibly naïve and overly romantic dream of living out my life as a professional unemployed person.

In this fantasy, I’d rent a small flat with a balcony looking over a fantastic city skyline or picturesque vista. Then, I’d abuse my Amazon Student membership and order fresh tea online every day and become a true tea connoisseur.

I’d read Steinbeck, Nietzsche and Dante. Eat vegetables. Say hello to pedestrians. Write dashingly profound things on my typewriter. Be a starving artist.

In the 20 minutes we spent at Frisco, I lived out that fantasy in my head. I exchanged my looming anxieties concerning college for an unrequited wish that I had a year or two to live in Frisco and fulfill my middle school dreams. As I crossed the street and smiled at strangers, I imagined staying.

Of course, we didn’t stay. I didn’t make a fuss when we left. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting used to it. In the past week, I’ve probably said more goodbyes than I have in my entire life. Leaving is a painful business but I suppose people get used to it after a while.

Seven states and 2,000 miles later, I’m in Claremont, Calif., less than an hour from downtown Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Mountains and Disneyland. Pomona College will be home for the next four years. California will be home for the next four years.

I’m still too high on emotions and orientation madness to determine how I feel about being here. Southern California feels like the complete opposite of Northern Minnesota; the sun seems to burn hotter and the air seems to taste drier, even when it rains.

I think I’ll like it.

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends college in California.