I knew this day would arrive, but I never thought it would actually come. -- I’ve said this a lot lately. Although everyone points out, it’s not an end, but rather a beginning, one would be remiss to not acknowledge that it is really an end. It’s an end of something important. A monumental life stage. College is really the time when you develop who you are. You make friends that will be with you for the rest of your life. You grow and adapt and change and learn.
Each step of the way makes it harder and harder to leave. Ending classes is a RELIEF, but you realize that it’s all over. You have fulfilled all of your requirements. You have no more classes to sign up for. Your exploration here is finished.
You say GOODBYE to your professors -- mainly the ones that have really aided and influenced you. You sneak out of the half-hearted goodbyes for the most part. Some are hard to say goodbye to though. Some of mine have become close friends or even like family to me.
You become NOSTALGIC all the time about very specific actions. You realize that “this may be the last time I walk back to my apartment passing the lacrosse field on this side during the day with a backpack on”. Every moment with friends is HEIGHTENED. Being alone is not an option. But every second you feel the clock ticking closer to the end. It’s a weighty feeling, but it gives meaning to every instant.
You meet new friends. People that you haven’t seen in years or ones that you haven’t interacted with suddenly become important. Especially during Senior Week. You give up friends from other classes and concentrate on a COLLECTIVE experience of seniors on the precipice of a life change. It’s a week of total immersion. You forget that days exist. You DISTRACT yourself from your own existence. It’s a week based wholly in interactions with others. There is no more artifice of having to be someone else. You meet people as your established self, rather than the contents without content that you enter Hopkins with. On top of that, you have no reason to pretend to be someone else or waste time talking to people you have no interest in. You become selective in your friendships, which are always better with quality over quantity.
The time between end of classes and graduation is an entirely new venture. You make lasting memories in this short period of a few weeks. It is almost impossible to describe how free from time you are in that PRESENT, but how locked into time you feel because of the FUTURE. It becomes a set number of seconds, minutes, and hours that flow, rather than days that pass as usual.
You RESIST. You hate this push toward graduation and try to stop it -- to stop time -- but you can’t. You want to stay in this LIMBO forever.
You resist your parents. And with the best intentions and with love. You are torn between the people that love you absolutely and have given you so much -- and those who have been your lifeblood for your time away from the former group. Family becomes FOREIGN and OUT OF CONTEXT in this environment.
You graduate. It should feel like an event, but it doesn’t. It feels SURREAL. It feels like it never happened. It feels like too much happened without you knowing. It feels like SLEEPWALKING. -- Up on stage, it’s all a blur. They rush you to do so many things. Walk now! Shake hands! Look this way! Shake another hand! Walk down the steps! Get your photo taken! Make sure you never trip! Make sure you keep your hat and stoll! Did anyone cheer? Did they say my name correctly? — It happened but all together. From the outside, I’m sure it happened in sequence, but from my angle, it was all at once. A fated assembly line. A metaphor of constant forward motion through time. When it’s all over, you get your $200,000 receipt -- which is the size of one of those fake cardboard checks -- and you all collectively gather.
The proceeding days are like a SUPERNOVA. Everyone gathers together so closely. A CLUSTER so tight nothing can stop it. And then it RELEASES. And people SCATTER. It happens in waves. The first wave is the easiest to experience and the hardest to comprehend -- the former point being directly related to the latter. You expect them to come back in the fall again. It still hasn’t set in yet. It all happens so QUICKLY though. In high school, you have the summer to ween yourself off of your friends, your experiences, your life, your home. Two days after graduation, people had vanished. And now memories stand where they once were. I walked past an apartment where 3 of my friends USED TO live. The blinds were pulled and I could see inside. I felt what it was to be myself in that moment. It was UNEASY. A place isn’t the same without the people who were there when you constructed it.
You remove THINGS from your life. By things I mean physical objects. You move out. I’ve learned that I have way too much STUFF. I can’t possibly live like this. I’m going to simplify. Little furniture. Less clothing. Fewer things. Although, I found myself in that scene from The Jerk where I kept telling myself I needed this or that.
My roommate refuses to pack things. It makes him too sad. He tries to distract me when I pack. He tries to distract himself when I pack. Each day there is less and less out in the open. Most of it is in boxes. But you soon realize that STUFF doesn’t make a PLACE. Although you attach significance to these items. A friend of ours took our end tables and my dresser among other things. And as they left the apartment, I felt like they were robbing me. RECOGNITION and RECALL of events are triggered strongly as you watch things leave your life. I think you try to re-store those moments in your brain. You can’t afford to let the cognitive triggers for these events in your life disappear with the material objects. But I remember thinking about silly things when they left. Like how I kept certain items on top of my dresser. Or how I organized my clothes within it. Why I remember these things, I will not know.
You put on a HAPPY face. And I don’t mean this pejoratively. You genuinely enjoy the moments you experience, but there is an undercurrent of nervous excitement. There is so much in store, but you can’t forget what has passed. What is being LEFT. What is LEAVING.
I’ve never established myself so firmly in a location that I wouldn’t be coming back to. I’ve never really had to leave HOME yet. It has always been a base. And it will always be there unless my parents decide otherwise. But this is NEW. I won’t live in Baltimore again. At least not for a while. And if I do, all of my reference points will be different.
I’ve never felt older than I feel right now. I understand I’m not that OLD yet. But I have never really felt my age like this before. Age was about getting older before. The MOMENTUM was good. It was getting me to a certain point. Now age becomes a deterrent. Maybe if I wasn’t so zealous to grow older when I was a child, time would be moving slower. I don’t feel old enough to be a college graduate. Before I got here, I would watch television and see COLLEGE aged people and think that I don’t look like them. Now I still have the same reaction. Maybe television adds years to the face, but I just don’t see myself like I see them. I have a fear that people will look at me next year in grad school and think that I’m lost walking into MFA classes. I look at grad students now in real life and don’t think I am anything like them. I need a pipe or something distinguishing.
At least in this whole process, I’ve FELT something. That’s the best you can hope for in any situation. Faulkner closes Wild Palms (a.k.a. If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem) by saying “Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.” I am not depressed, although this may inspire depression upon a reader. I am happy to have experienced this all. Everything. It can’t last forever, but deadlines are a godsend, for they give meaning to time and meaning to experience. When we unpack these memories sometime in the future, we won’t have what we did before, but WE will still have each other and ourselves and a place. I can’t truly imagine a world beyond the present, but I can only hope it’s half as good as the recent past.
I’m very thankful for every experience that comes my way. Good or Bad. And this blog has been one of them. Saying goodbye to it is hard to do. But I want to thank anyone who has read it over the past few years. Or those who have ever read anything that I’ve written. I hope that I have been entertaining or interesting or at least a non-regrettable waste of time. No matter where you are headed in life, I am glad we crossed paths.