Thank You For All Of It
Last week, in an English class that can only be described as earth-shatteringly depressing, my professor told us that the most optimistic thought is that the past is inside us and can be brought back to life.
To some extent, I hope not. I am graduating in two weeks and two days and there are, by all means, things that should be left to die. Futons, we must part. So long to trespassing and biweekly buffalo chicken pizza. I look forward to a time when I won’t impress myself by purchasing the second least-expensive wine in the store.
From the past four years, I can count more concrete failures than concrete successes. That’s a brutal ratio, and I’d be glad to see it go. If there’s something to be said for messing up a bunch so that when you get things right it’s glorious, I’m ready to have reached my threshold of mess-ups.
So yes, there are things that should be left to die. But there are good things, too, and those are the ones I don’t know what to do with. Memory is so elusive. I don’t want to forget these things or these people, and I’m afraid of how it’ll feel when they only come back to me with a sharp twinge in the chest.
As a freshman, I often thought about what I’d be like senior year. I’d look in the mirror and see a jumpy teenager whose skin still kind of sucked and who responded to nearly everything with nervous laughter. I imagined that by senior year, I would have written a novel and grown out the bangs that made me look like the lead singer of Fall Out Boy.
I am graduating, and I feel robbed. I’m still a bit of a mess. I don’t know what to say most of the time, and I have absolutely no idea what I want to make of life besides one day die happy and know that I did it right. I’ve fallen in love with several versions of how my life could go, including one in which I live alone on a farm and another in which I go bankrupt and write on bar napkins until I become J.K. Rowling. Meanwhile, I find it terrifying to actually feel things worth feeling and do things worth doing. I admit that I am unworthy of giving advice, but if I had one piece of it, it’d be to feel and do those things.
I definitely haven’t a lot of the time — far from it. One particularly strange failure to take my own advice happened during my sophomore summer, when I took care of a friend’s houseplant. It was probably the worst thing I ever agreed to do because I had and have no idea how to take care of a houseplant. It almost died, and I had to revive it often. At some point and for some reason, I started thinking that the plant’s cycle of life and near-death was symbolic of my emotional state. When the plant was green and sprouting, I felt accomplished and at ease. When the plant was a single brown leaf attached to a wilted stalk, I felt despondent.
Living with the emotions of a houseplant taught me that you shouldn’t live with the emotions of a houseplant. It’s weird, and most of the time it’ll just make you sad. Don’t save yourself from doing and feeling real, non-houseplant things. It’s easy to fall in love with the lives you could live and the person you could be. It’s harder to become that person. I wish I had spent more time trying over the past four years.
It may be silly to believe that in this unfathomably big universe, leaving this place is a huge deal. But I’ve had a lot of good things here that I don’t want to let die. I’m afraid of forgetting them.
The things I know pretty much amount to the following: When a professor tells you that your sentences are grammatically correct, but upon closer inspection, deeply problematic, you probably shouldn’t follow through with three more years as an English major. You don’t have to do anything that great for people to love you. You can fall in love with someone who was wearing Crocs when you hung out for the first time. You can have best friends who will change your life by being nothing like you.
Someone who barely knows you can love you because you love someone they love. They can even send you a care package full of your favorite sour geckos. You can have Fall Out Boy bangs, and your parents will still love you enough to send you 3,000 miles away for an incredible education.
This place has given me so much when I’ve had the heart and head to receive it. In the end, I have no idea about most things, if you haven’t noticed already. I’m uncertain, shaky and grateful. While writing this, four people have interrupted me: two to get advice that I gave poorly; one to get help zipping a dress; and one, in a towel, hair sopping, to sit next to me and stare at the wall. It has been an exhausting four years. But you all have been just the invasion of personal space that I needed.
Thank you for all of it.