It came to my attention the other day that I have less than two weeks of undergraduate classes left. I was rather astonished although, I suppose, I shouldn’t have been. I just feel as if I went to sleep in February, operated on auto pilot like a sleeping killer whale, and now am waking up to find it’s the downslope of April.
There’s a curious atmosphere twitching in the air around here that only we seniors seem to detect, and for us, its permeating everything. There is an unrelenting urge to do it all. It’s an almost animalistic drive, fit it all in, live fully, soak it up while we can all while trying not to think of the inevitable goodbyes waiting for us in a few weeks. Classes have become inconsequential. Parties, group meals, and birthday outings have become vital rituals carried out as if not doing so will result in grave consequences. I, someone who has a reputation for giving up social engagements for academic pursuits, have fallen victim to this as well, surprisingly enough. The sense of urgency and immediacy has no less gripped me than my fellows.
An overwhelming sense of change and upheaval is palpable among us as well. We know what’s coming after May fifteenth, but we just can’t let go until that last moment passes. We’re all in some state of denial despite the very real job searches and graduate admission processes we’ve undertaken in the past months. We’re still not quite ready to acknowledge that the semester’s end will ring anything different from what it always has.
As graduation draws nearer, I’ve been thinking quite a lot. My mind seems to be on a constant reel of retrospectives, a constant comparison of all my developmental states here. I’m put in mind of Ovid’s words at the beginning of his Metamorphoses, “My mind now turns to stories of bodies changed/ Into new forms…” My mind, seemingly of its own volition, has done much the same. I’m swimming in a vast sea of change. I see it looming ahead, and I look back and can trace the trails it’s made in the last four years. So much can happen in that amount of time. Lessons are learned, hearts are broken and healed, friends are won, lost, and won again, and an awful lot of growing up happens. When I look back to the me of four years ago, I see a little girl, innocent and vulnerable but fiercely ignorant of it. It makes me feel old. Now I realize those of you who are among my elders will scoff at that, and I do realize that at twenty-two I have a ways to go, but I don’t care. In context, I still feel old and more than a little jaded. That little girl grew up a great deal since that last semester of high school.
The past four years have given me so much, good and bad, and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I’m grateful for so much. I’m glad I chose to leave home to study far away. I’m glad I landed here. I’m glad I fell in with the group I did and met the people I did. I like how these experiences shaped me. I like who I’ve become. Life is pretty brilliant. My only regret is that I’ve just realized this now. I suppose that’s just how our minds work, though. We don’t appreciate things until we are faced with their disappearance. Humans are the only animals capable of living in the moment while being cognizant of it, but at the same time, not truly appreciating its importance.
I used to fear change. I’ve always been someone comfortable with a rhythmic existence. Now, though, as I stare down my impending future, I’m happy. I embrace change, and, dare I say it, actually need it. It’s the same sensation I get when I find myself on the last pages of a book I’ve truly loved. There is a bitter sweetness. I don’t want the story to end, but at the same time I want to know what sort of close those last few pages will bring and feel the satisfaction of finishing the book. My time here, as wonderful as it has been, cannot go on forever, and this book has to be closed and shelved so I can go on to the next volume. If there is one thing this stage in my life has taught me, it’s that change brings a lot of things including happiness. After all, a root bound plant can’t grow and thrive properly. Change isn’t just something we have to accept, it’s something we can love.