(Written in the month after my college graduation when I was still basically in college; aka a traumatic hour)
Last night I got tired early, as I usually do. I was on complex and could have very easily made it to my bed but I decided to sleep on a couch in the Jimmie Room, most likely for the last time. So many lasts that I will forget, I may as well have a few that are intentional. I also needed to be up early and nothing like fear of a professor seeing you passed out will wake you up in the morning.
I had a dream that one of my friends and neighbors from home was holding a graduation party for a friend that I’ve only recently gotten to know here. I had to be late and home friend told me it might be over by the time I got there but it wasn’t, and I spent time with my friend and I talked to the homeowner and I looked at a painting and when I woke up I was so inextricably sad.
I tried to figure it out. Maybe it is the pervasive sense of sadness, again not a bad sadness, but a terrible love, a loss, a sorrow, that hits me when I wake up in the wee hours every morning. But it was different, maybe it was that I have known this new friend and so many of them for so short and how do you hold that when you know you can’t make it be any longer. What I finally settled on, which twists and makes sense but I’m sure it was more, is that the old friend from home and the new friend from here will likely never meet and certainly never know one another well enough to have graduation parties for each other. Now I know, life is long, we’re all connected, but that isn’t the point, not really. That particular point is that at this age these people will never know each other, but what it points to is that we will never be this young again.
I don’t know what I will miss. In so many ways I feel ready to leave, although there is no where that I want to go. I don’t want to stay but I feel no imminent pleasure coming from any of my future destinations. And yet.
And yet, I cried this morning as I looked out at the campus from the Bekins steps.
And yet, this room is a trap, I don’t know how I’m in it right now.
And yet the heat pervades everything I do. I still managed to find people to question in these last two weeks. I fall asleep when there are other things I could be doing because I know I cannot stay awake. All the places are laden with meaning. Is there a spot on this campus that I cannot garner a memory for? At the same time, I cannot fathom that I’ve lived in this hall for four years, and on this same floor three years ago. I remember it but I don’t feel it. I don’t know why.
I know that on the scale there are far grander tragedies, even on my scale. But you know what, on my scale I don’t know if there are. What is the scale, anyway? I don’t know if I have ever felt a sorrow that is so pure and deep and yet so undramatic. I don’t want to stay but I don’t know how to leave. I don’t know how to end something that I have loved so deeply.
I thought that Hoofbeat would be the greatest thing life had to offer me. I thought that that place saved me. And in so many ways it did. But the pure fact that I found another place, one who I feel gifted me everything about the person I am, is scarier, because it means that I will probably love something else this much. I do not want to forget this. I can remember everything that Hoofbeat meant to me in theory but I can no longer feel it. I want to always be able to feel this place on me. I know there will come a time when that is not what I want, but that is what scares me. I don’t want to lose it.
I would say that this could be the last place that will change me so much but aren’t we always becoming? I am young but I don’t think we ever stop being able to change. Who will I be in three months, in half a year, in a year, in five, in a dozen, in twenty?
I’ve been knowing this in small increments for much of this year, but a big chunk hit me last night, or yesterday morning, or something: not everything will come to pass. We will not throw all the parties, we will not cross everything off the bucket list, we will not become better friends with everyone. We will not have repeats of all of the best nights. There are people we will never kill or kiss. We will miss things and never make up for it. Not all the promises will be kept.
The only thing that made it make sense was reading Goodbye to All That, but I’ve read it so much recently that I can’t read it through anymore, although of course when I go to the browser it is always open, but I can only hear the very most relevant lines on a record repeat in my head:
But where is the schoolgirl who used to be me and late at night I used to wonder that
Was anyone ever so young
In retrospect it seems to me that the days before I knew the names of the bridges were happier than the ones that came later
But perhaps you will see that as we go along
I could make promises to myself and all the other people and I had all the time in the world to keep them
I could stay up all night and make mistakes, and none of them would count
Colonials in a far country
I was not then guilt ridden about spending my afternoons that way because I still had all the afternoons in the world
It is distinctly possible to stay too long at the fair
That was certainly an unnecessarily long list of repeat phrases, but I do not care. To order them and explain them all individually would lose the fact that as I said before, or I used the word at least, it is all inextricably tied. I already referred to most of it anyway.
I think it is an especially curious position for those of us who came from the Midwest. People from similar areas always have something small in common, and to come from a place that is so not laden with meaning to one that is rife with it, that is part of the crux. And it is just so far. I have no family on this coast. I want to stay here, I will stay here, but I am not in a position to do it safely. And there is no way I can go back. I don’t judge anyone going home, because I would if I could, but I cannot. I will hear it all, I am sure: unrealistic, the economy, everyone goes home, but everyone also went to the University of Wisconsin. I have come to understand that life is a series of not just financial payments but other payments as well and what I’d have to pay mentally to return is almost certainly far greater than anything I will lose here, on this coast.
But what I am trying to explain is that distance is far in physical and mental spaces, and the life I lead here is one that does not make sense back home and there are certain directions that you cannot reverse. I don’t think I began talking about this at all, but here we are. The East coast and the South are both places, but the Midwest comes with no special twinge like those two and the West have. I wish it was just because I’m from there but after three years of consternation I’m relatively sure that if there were a special feel to it somebody would have mentioned it to me.
Every time someone asks me and I begin to explain, my voice breaks. There are many ways to say it, but it is this: if you live in a fog and come into the light, for a day, for a week, or for four years, and since it was four years you know it is somewhat sustainable, you cannot return willingly into the fog. To return when there is any amount of choice in the matter is unthinkable. Nobody voluntarily returns to the darkness.
I don’t ever want to buy another Northface jacket and that is the last I will say on the matter.
I suppose because that was already such a jump, with no bunjee cords or lifeboats, from there to here, that is why I am so bemused by the common tendency of what seems like everyone to attach to another person right now. Whatever level of comfort it offers seems that it would only hide, for me, the truth of the matter which I must get to before it is too late and I can no longer remember. Or it is just part of the complex system of interactions that it seems I missed learning and I am too late for that already.
During the day I am always fine. I live the day through and I am with my friends and I am doing the things that make me happy which is the way to spend the day. It comes again at night but always in a haze, and in the morning is the only time when I can think about it with clarity. As I said last time, I prefer it this way, I want to deal with it early in the day so I can enjoy the rest of it, intentionality with my time.
I have heard tell that people are disappointed with this May. To each their own, but I am not. I want to be with my friends, I don’t need or want to be at a giant party every night or every day. That seems lonelier at this point than anything. And everything is a memory. I convinced all my friends to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Saturday, that seems more precious to me now than attending or throwing the biggest rager.
Keywords: precious, core, gift, clarity,
To realize that all the humor and all the stories are so tied to the people and the place is hard. I don’t know yet but I predict that none of it will translate. Who could understand why I refer to all my friends as the lesbians? The stories that seem so funny when we’ve had the time to repurpose them only seem disturbing when I imagine telling them to a stranger. The way we joke, the sinister level to which we can take serious stories, the way that nine people in a tiny room can all understand just why something is funny and not offensive, I don't think I'll be able to find it again for a long time. But aren’t I lucky that these people know me well enough to understand?
Where again will we have this ability to say things such as
Would you rather be cheated on by a loanshark or own a slave?
I know I already have so many friends who are gone and that it is fine because I know they will always be my friends and they still are and I don’t miss them every second but it hurts to know that everyone here will be that soon.
The air conditioner in this room doesn’t even work, it seems to be circulating air but it is all just stagnant.
Which I cannot be.
Another one of the truths. When I wanted to stay here it made sense. But it no longer does. I don’t think flakiness is the right word, although I can be a flake. I think what it is is that this is a time of change and I am changing very quickly and what does make sense one day does not make sense the next. All I know is that three months here when busy takes long enough. Three months without everything would be a year, and not a happy one. I will already be here long enough that I will be watching everyone leave. To stay here after that is unimaginable. Any house I stay in or don’t stay in, thinking I can go find the people who live anywhere and realizing that everyone is gone is more painful than leaving. All the things I haven’t used enough of – there are local grocery stores in every city. There are hikes everywhere. I’m strong enough to know what will save me from crumbling but I am not strong enough to watch anyone else crumble. Joan talked about how the people who were new faces were never knew, but here there is not even a promise of new faces. Nobody even tries to make that lie.
And even when I hear that someone else will be here who I like, I am no longer sad. Because when you are in an unhealthy place anyone can turn boring or tiresome. Everyone is wonderful and horrible but I know which would show through when I am being stagnant.
And that is the thing I cannot be. There are so many choices to be made and many things that should be prioritized and done but at a time like this it all boils down. It boils down to what is at the very core the very most important. And for me now, it comes down to the phrase that Sherman Alexie ended his speech with here:
Be kinetic, don’t be stagnant.