A Heartwarming Weekend and a Heartbreaking Departure

Time and time again, I’ve expressed my love for the Junior State of America (JSA).

I joined the political debate club just over a year ago as a sophomore. A shy voice with a lot on my mind, I didn’t like leaving my personal bubble or my usual group of friends but I wanted to open up to the opportunities.

I attended the Southeast State Fall State convention in November of 2015. It was my first convention and I stuck by my best friend’s side, admiring others from afar and wishing I could create new bonds.

I attended the Winter Congress convention in February of 2016. My second convention, my first time debating, and I finally began to feel comfortable enough to stray from my friend’s side and explore friendships with those from other schools and other states.

My favorite convention by far, the long weekend in Washington D.C. was the first time I began to truly love and appreciate the people, atmosphere, and freedom JSA granted me.

I attended the Southeast State Spring State convention in April of 2016. My third convention, the last convention of the school year, and the last convention I would enjoy with the seniors I had gotten close to.

The reality of how much I adore them didn’t hit me until the cabinet, including fellow Pink Room member and academic genius Stephanie Brito, started their closing speeches. One by one, they expressed their love for JSA and its people, and cut their speeches short for fear of bursting into tears.

Seven months after the last convention and one year after the first, I was reunited with some of the greatest and most intellectual people I know. I could barely contain my excitement and curiosity–who would I see from last year, who would I meet, who would become part of my group.

To say the convention felt different from previous ones is an understatement. Now as Director of Photography I found little time to thoroughly enjoy a debate  or thought talk since my job requires me to run from point A to point B to point C in search of the perfect video and the greatest pictures.

However, I love my position in cabinet. It gives me multiple opportunities to meet new people, listen in on debates I wouldn’t normally consider going to, and it keeps me entertained.

This past weekend I spoke to people from Vero Beach and Naples, that I never considered talking to, because of the attention my job grants me. Of course, these bonds–temporary or long-term–are more reason to adore JSA and feel a certain type of heartache when leaving the convention.

Normally, I experience the typical “post-convention depression” every JSA member has felt at least once while leaving a convention. It’s admittedly horrible to leave behind friends you don’t get to see everyday but love every bit as much as those you have every single class with or at least live in the same city as. This pain is especially felt within the Southeast State because we’re small and become like family over the span of the conventions.

But this weekend was different. It hurt more. It still hurts.

When I arrived home, originally excited to fall onto my warm bed and hug my mom again, I felt a strange emptiness. It didn’t–and it doesn’t–feel right to be back “home.” Instead of returning to my family, I felt like I had left them.

It’s not to say I don’t love those around me or I don’t appreciate; for the most part I really do.

I realized JSA is a safe haven. They care about who you are as a person, how you treat them, how you carry yourself, how you stand by your beliefs.

Very few know your past and personal life; I’m allowed to forget my problems from home, from school, from friends. For a few days none of those problems exist and I can open my mind to new perspectives without fear of judgment or ridicule based on what I love.

I miss Fall State.

I miss my people.

I miss my second family.

I can’t wait until February when I can pack my bags and fly out to D.C. for Winter Congress.

If you ever need a family, JSA is the strangest yet most perfect combination of dysfunction and harmony forged by a love of politics, activism, and open-mindedness. I’m not entirely sure how it works, but I leave with a heavy heart that sinks further with every passing thought until I get to return to the little family.

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