“We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us.” -Charles Bukowski
As I begin the process of turning the page and ending a very important, fundamental chapter in my life, I can’t help but feel a little shaken that I am off schedule. My friends are finishing their chapters, a long time ago when I set out my “reading plan” (let’s just drag out this metaphor here, shall we?), I was due to end this thing soon and get on with the rest of this book, whose table of contents was perfectly outlined.
Well, as it turns out, this chapter needed a little longer to do its telling. And for that I am so grateful. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with how absolutely beautiful life is, and my heart swells with the goodness and the brokenness of it all. I love the in-betweens, the moments that aren’t meant to be anything but end up being breathtaking in their normalcy. This recognition is the kind of innate trait that wouldn’t have been allowed to come to fruition if I had forced the pen to keep on keeping on instead of telling my story the way it needed to be told.
The hard thing that comes up in all of this, though, is that I must now learn to balance this inspired, whole self with the life and rules laid out by a previous tyrant. The me that built up the plan I am currently carrying out is not entirely the me that I am today. I think a lot of people nearing the end of school, especially one with a high-pressure, high-stress, high-stakes environment, can say the same. Don’t get me wrong, the girl who hedged her bets and shot for the stars and clawed her way up to something new and scary and big is still very much inside of me. And put me in a room with someone who sounds like they are lecturing and I will 100% always still search for a pen and paper to take notes. But the girl who lived a calculated, manipulated, gray, stepping stone to stepping stone life is here no longer. College consists of these four weird liminal years in which your edges get roughed up and your priorities begin to rearrange. And if, like me, your experiences cause a paradigm shift in your being and you come to realize that the whole, this whole, is so, so much greater than the sum of all these little parts, it can be really difficult to figure out how to finish what you started before this shift occurred.
How do you fit this rough, outlined peg into the straight, iron-rimmed hole you originally set out to conquer? I don’t think there is an answer; there is no right or wrong. This is one of those times when you just have to do–take every day as it comes. For me, that sometimes means a lot of confusion. Sometimes it means the siren call of past demons beckoning me to rejoin them–“Look, how easy it would be to exist here if you just came back to us!” with outstretched arms. They are right–it would ease the internal/external disconnect. But it would be completely miserable and an experience I am not willing to settle for. I’ve worked entirely too hard to let a small blip in my timeline throw my stability completely off. Instead, every day requires a mindful approach of just acknowledging the discomfort, the loneliness that comes from forging a new way for yourself amongst the ever-present burden of the ruthless status quo. From exams to projects to papers to meetings to fraternity back-lots to Monday morning lectures, you just march on, allowing your lips to curl up a bit as you notice the difference in the way you experience “the grind”– when you allow yourself the freedom to not know, to not plan, to just be and keep being.
And so I venture on, through all the twists and corners of this place. There are ghosts and memories around every corner, but there are also new layers to be added. As I finish out this chapter, I can’t help but go back and doodle on the pages, filling up the stark white with bunches of bright and beautiful blooms and long, hanging vines and promises of light. I think my novel may be becoming more like a scrapbook, but that’s the way I like it. It is my internal collage, unique to me, solely for me. And right now, that means I am finishing out this one piece, this corner of a much greater page. To me it has felt like an eternity, but I persist because of the promise of the sweeter infinity that is just pages away.
In the words of Robert Frost, never cut what you can untie. I will go through the motions with grace, savoring them for the lessons they have taught and the time that they are. And when it is done, it will be done. Until then, find me in the stacks, in the piles of books, in the depth of the pages. My life is for the expanse, for the stretching and the searching. Write on.