Looking Back & Looking Forward

Flashback to eleven months ago. I’m wearing a white dress, a horrendous (but apparently traditional) white hat, and heels that are too high for my sanity. It’s a day I’ve waited for for perhaps too long, and yet, somehow, I’m wishing it would postpone itself a little bit.

I was graduating high school, and, consequently, I was leaving behind fifty-nine girls with whom I had gone through it all. I had those weird butterflies that you get when you’re about to do something crazy for the first time ever, but I wasn’t sure why. I had spent the past four years (alright, maybe a few more than that, considering my attendance record) wishing it was time to move onto something bigger and better. My nights had been spent compiling mental lists of all the things I would do when I was on my own, starting fresh in a new city. I had been dreaming of all the new people I would meet–would they be reserved, like me? Or, maybe, would they be completely crazy and everything I had never been? In my mind, the possibilities were limitless, and the world seemed like it could be mine.

So why was I feeling so unsure of the future as I stood in the familiar hallway donning my graduation outfit and clutching a bouquet of flowers so hard that they were prematurely melting in my palms?

As I reminisce, I realize that most of graduation is a blur. Maybe this is due to the fact that it has been a while since I said goodbye, or that I have just filled up my repertoire with so many new memories that the old ones had no where to stay. Really, I think it’s probably just because I spent most of the ceremony praying that I wouldn’t fall on my face when I walked down the dreaded, uneven brick pathway to my seat at the end of the first row (FYI: I made it!) and trying not to look too emotional in hopes of preserving my impassive demeanor for just a few more hours. Whatever the case may be, I do remember three things in particular that I thought about extensively while sitting in the risers:

  1. Everything changes, but not everything ends.
  2. I’m really lucky.
  3. Never wear shoes that you haven’t yet broken in for an event where you will walk down an aisle with hundreds of people staring at you.

Let me expand.

I listened to a lot of names be called that night. I’m not sure how long it took, but I know my class took longer than any other class before because we were special. We were so special that they bent the rules and allowed a few too many people into the Class of 2014. I know that sounds a little harsh, but it’s true. There weren’t even enough lockers for us! But, I digress. As I listened to the names, I noticed that I knew the exact alphabetic order of my class. And, with each name, I realized that I knew a lot about the individual attached to it. I knew birthdays, college choices, hobbies, best friends, favorite snacks. I even knew things like if they were known to have a good relationship with their families, or if they valued a certain quality over another. I knew a lot about these people, and they knew a lot about me. I had spent my life with these people, and all of a sudden, I wouldn’t.

I knew that it wouldn’t last forever, but as I sat there and thought about all these things and anecdotes that I knew about so many different people, I realized that it wasn’t ending. It wasn’t like I would never see these people again, or laugh about the times we embarrassed ourselves immensely, or share devour half a dozen baked goods each in public with them. We will do all of these things again. But, they will be in different locations, with different perspectives, and with different lives. Regardless, they will happen, they’ll just be a little different. This goodbye isn’t the last goodbye if I don’t want it to be.

I looked at my dress and was careful to not accidentally smudge hot pink lipstick on it. I had flown all the way to New York City to buy it, and even though it wasn’t exactly what I once had in mind, it would do. It was expensive, even though it didn’t have to be. I could have easily gone to any store and bought a white dress for twenty dollars. I was really lucky to be sitting on that platform, receiving a diploma, wearing a nice dress, looking out at and surrounded by people who wanted me to succeed. Now that I have expanded my social circle just a little bit at college, it is more clear to me than ever before that this is not guaranteed. A support system and little luxuries aren’t the norm, even though they sometimes seem like it, and their presence in my life was amazing–and still is.

My feet hurt. A lot. I had saved these shoes for this occasion for almost three years and had only worn them once before. But, alas, I had already committed myself to a night of fashionable pain so I just tried to distract myself from it. This was difficult because the ceremony began and ended with walking on a very hazardous pathway that is not friendly to heels. I chanted in my head, “Left. Right. Left. Right. Do. Not. Fall.” again and again until I was safely in the reception area with a glass of unidentified punch in my hand and everyone else was so teary that they didn’t notice my limping. Mission accomplished, and, as of today, lesson not yet learned. (Sorry, feet!)

Anyway, back to the present. It’s now the end of my freshman year of college. WHAT!? I literally just wrote about my high school graduation, which was a total of 336 days ago, as if it were just yesterday! That’s just weird.

I’m not going to lie: the first year of college isn’t as awesome as one would think. At least, for me it wasn’t. I didn’t cross off more than a few of the little dreams I had on my mental list that I had spent years compiling. And, when I did, they didn’t seem as exciting as I thought they were going to be. That was pretty disappointing. However, the one activity that really exceeded my expectations was sitting on the fountain in Lincoln Center at night. The sound of the water drowns out the screams of the city and the sky opens up all around you. It is really quite excellent.

As for friends, my university colleagues were nothing like my fellow classmates in high school. Instead of staying up to study, people stayed up to go nightclubbing. There were cliques like I had never imagined or experienced. People were catty, unmotivated, and a little scary. (I do realize that this is making me sound completely lame and antisocial, but, let’s be honest, that isn’t be so far from the truth!) I did find a few really awesome people, though, and I don’t know what this year would have been like without their companionship. Ironically, they share my opinions on the other students, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

I have a new friend who constantly tells me that people only seem to be having more fun than me and that they are, in actuality, probably feeling as lost, confused, and down as I am. Every time she tells me this, I give her a look and deny any truth to her statement. To prove her point, she will then say that even she feels this way and that she is less open about her hardships and disappointments. I guess I’m learning that I’m not as private as I thought I was when it comes to my emotions. But, on the other hand, maybe this is just the consequence of having been conditioned to share my opinions. I’ve always been taught to speak up–my opinions matter, people want to hear them. Now, I’m not so sure that this is the case, but I doubt it will stop me from complaining, (occasionally) celebrating, and sharing my current state of mind whenever I feel like it.

This summer, I will be staying in the city. According to my sister, this is a big deal because apparently most college freshmen go home for their first summer or do something low-key and friend-intensive. I’ve spent the past month sending out my resume to undisclosed email addresses, writing cover letters (or, in most cases, notes of admiration) to my role models, and trying to figure out what my life will look like in four months when I start this whole process all over again as a sophomore. Some of my efforts have been well-received (and a few have kept me up all night with anticipative excitement!) so, in my opinion, since I am inclined to share it so much, life is looking pretty okay right now. (And the fact that my current view is the best cityscape in the world doesn’t hurt.)

I’ll be blogging my adventures, musings, purchases, embarrassing moments, successes, and whatever else happens here periodically, partly because I just want to be able to say “I write!” without feeling awkward about it, and also because, why not? I’m feeling optimistic, and I might as well embrace it.


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