Ana María González Paniagua
Editorial Team Member

Over 2,000 miles. I could only endure it with you three. 

In August, I had the opportunity to drive from my hometown in Mexico to Rochester, New York, where my brother lives. We were leaving him off to his second year of college, but even if it was the second time around, it still hurt. I love having him around. But that trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that connected me closer to my family, where we did things we never thought we would and learned that, overall, love will always keep us together. 

We saw mountains and rivers, some tunnels and even bridges, yet the little things are what made it so special. The most memorable experience I had during the five-day trip was when I turned 19 as we continued to drive to get to Rhode Island exactly at midnight. It was so surreal. 

While listening to music, falling asleep, waking up, and eating too much food, it suddenly was midnight on August 23, 2023, exactly 19 years after my birth. I had never spent a birthday outside of Tampico, which is where I lived, much less spend the first hours of it in a car. But what more could I have asked for, if my family, who have supported me through everything, were there?

I remember that exact moment. Night surrounded our little white Corolla car. Illumination outside was scarce. Yet, inside that car, there was too much love and joy to be overcome by any darkness. For a brief moment, I felt like a child once again because love oozed from every single member of that car, my mom, my dad, and my older brother. To this day, they call me the baby of the home, but for a while now I haven’t felt like a baby. I have seen the adult world creeping up on me. I’ve felt alone, stressed, and a little bit scared of everything that is to come; college applications, being by myself for the first time, or anything else. For that instance, all that uncertainty drowned out because I saw the illuminated faces of my family. My mom said “Happy birthday. I love you so much” and hugged me tightly. My dad smiled and put on some country music about how a young girl grows up on her dad, and my brother simply said a few words that reaffirmed that in his eyes I am always good enough. 

What is frightening is that the four walls of a small car with your loved ones is not always where we stay. We are not always going to be protected from harm or picked up when we fall as we grow up. That does not mean love disappears, but it changes as we stand up on our own two feet, opening the doors to get out of the car. My brother already opened his door, and soon I’ll be opening mine. I don’t know what the world holds for me, yet I know that because my foundations stay in that Corolla car, with incredible amounts of love, I’ll be okay. Love coming from two parents who cheer for me, even if they have to stay back in the car, and from a brother who from his little college apartment will always root for me.

I say I am frightened, and I am, but I take it with pride because being scared of being away means I leave with the best memories of home. 

Over 2,000 miles. I could only endure it with you three. And we’ll keep driving, maybe not to the same places at the same time, but I will always come back home.