At 6 p.m. PST, I turned off my green library lamp, my standing floor lamp, and my Ikea ceramic lamp – dear bright friends who turn my office from tomb-like into cave-like. My computer and digital photo frame followed shortly thereafter. I got into my car and the 30 minute commute home was spent by singing loudly to my iPod on shuffle, which delights me immensely as songs come up that I haven’t heard in years.
I drove straight to the gym, where I got on the treadmill and ran for about 30 minutes while watching the last 12 minutes of Law and Order and the first 18 minutes of Bones (it was the one where Hodgins didn’t tell the team that he used to date the dead man’s wife and gets them all in trouble). I then went over to the arm-strength torture machine and did about 2.5 reps before completely wimping out and going home, ignoring the rest of the machines that scoffed at me.
I put in a frozen pizza and started making cookie dough for a meeting I’m going to tomorrow. I have found this fact to be completely true: people love you if you bring food. Counter space in my kitchen is quite limited, so it became a balancing act to eat pizza, make cookies, use the cookie cutters (woodland creatures, thank you Ikea), cool the cookies, and reuse the pans. Add to this watching Waiting for Guffman for the first time, and you have my night.
Feeling exhausted by my domestic activities, I was still in my workout clothes and apron when I sat down, too-brown cookies cooling on the counter (seriously, how does that happen? every single batch!). Flipping open my computer, I headed to Facebook. The university I graduated from and continue to work for began classes yesterday, and I saw post after post of my fellow graduates — “So-and-so misses school” — writing on other peoples’ walls, lamenting their lack of school status.
I admit I was one of them. It’s a very strange thing to go through 17 (more if you count preschool) annual first days of school and then to have the pattern end. I found much of my identity in school. I was a great student, a willing learner, an attentive listener. Thus, I miss the anxiety and excitement that comes along with new classes and new professors. And now, my nights are…not exciting. Filled with commonplace, domestic activities like baking and cleaning. I just feel so darn old — and my attire that night didn’t help.
But there’s a few things I need to remember. First of all, I didn’t love school with a burning fiery passion when I was in it. This first week was incredibly frightening and overwhelming. Oh, syllabus shock, how I’ve tried to forget you! Yet, it always happened, and I always broke down into tears at some point, claiming I couldn’t do this semester. Late night reading, cramming, papers written with unfocused eyes – that’s the kind of stuff that the alumni association doesn’t like to remind you about. It wasn’t all flag football, bonfires, crazy dress-up nights. It was a lot of work.
Secondly, this gradation thing is not a unique experience to me, my friends, or the class of 2009. Obviously. We forget, though, that this is a common experience. Everything ends, including school. Unless you become a career student (tempting in this economy), there will be a day when school ends and that experience is over. The awkward transition, the missing of friends, the anxious in-between…that’s often what follows the ending of something huge. And it’s okay to experience the melancholy.
But lastly, I can’t live in the past. This is a danger for me, as nostalgia usually rules my day. But I need to be looking forward. Yes, my time at university was amazing. It was challenging and hilarious and beautifully difficult. But I will not let those be the best years of my life. I can choose where my life goes (with help from the Supreme Planner), and I choose to continue to climb. Yes, the past was wonderful, but the future – that’s what’s beaming off in the distance. So I’m going to take those lessons I learned and tally ho, onto what’s to come!
How do you move on? Do you struggle with the balance between past and future? How do your cookies turn out?