Tiny specs of diamonds sparkled on the front half of the gold hoop earring as it fell out of my ear and into the Atlantic Ocean. Moonlight shined upon the sea. As I watched it fall, I hesitated to catch it, and then it was too late. But in that moment, I realized how I could look at this as a part of me always being in Fort Lauderdale, and how I can always reminisce on the night my friend and I decided to go for a swim.
On the sixth and last day in Fort Lauderdale, my friend and I ate brunch in Café Del Mar reliving every detail from the trip — from the time we boarded the plane at Indianapolis International Airport to now sitting at our table — filling the silence in the restaurant with laughter and joy. In that moment at the restaurant, we had a realization: there is a before and an after. Just from one girls trip, there was growth for us both as individuals and as friends.
This trip was the first that we planned ourselves and successfully “made it out of the group chat.” No family, no chaperones, just the two of us girls spending a few days running around a city we both have never been to before. It was a new experience for both of us as we grew closer to our 20th birthdays. We had a couple items on the itinerary, like having a shopping day, going out to restaurants and the beach, but everything was up in the air until we got there and we took mostly everything day by day. Who knew we would end up with inside jokes and an entire page of notes full of details of what happened during the six days of our trip.
The first night we had our first swim, with the sun going down and the stars slowly poking out in the sky. By the end of the night, we were in someone’s TikTok giving our opinion on what is considered a cougar, and my friend is out $20, spending it on four pink, plastic cowgirl hats from a guy who claimed he needed money for a gambling addiction. We don’t have the hats anymore — nor pictures with them — because it turned out the hats were good conversation starters, so we gave them to people we talked to.
As the days went on, we went line dancing, treated ourselves to a nice dinner, swam multiple times in the ocean at night, went on a little shopping spree, met some cool people and almost died from walking on hot sand. From those days came lessons I learned about myself.
As I continue my journey into young adulthood, the trip helped me figure out more about the person I want to be and what makes me, me. I learned that sometimes you just have to do things for the memories — or, in other words “for the plot” — and other times it's okay to have your standards. In the end it’s your vacation, your memories, your experiences, so make it what you want. Make it so when you have to leave, it’s bittersweet.
As we headed to the airport, the feeling of nostalgia filled the air. The entire time my friend and I were waiting to board the plane, all we could do was laugh about the inside jokes we now have, like “extra luggage” or “Bulls jersey.” I’m not going to explain those, because memories that bring you joy should be treated with gentleness and care and should be special to you, no one else. Memories are unique to each person and sometimes, if you share them with the world, they can lose their specialness.
There couldn’t have been a more perfect way to enter my twenties than to take this trip. In life, there are milestones, and going on your first girls trip as young adults is one of them.
Natalie Fitzgibbons (she/her) is a junior standing studying journalism with a minor in American Studies.