Thursday, June 12, 2008

goodbye college

I think it may have began today. The last month since graduation, I haven't been myself exactly. I've had a lot of good days and good times, but I've always felt somewhat on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I never really went over the edge, but I walked around a lot with that teetering feeling of oh-Lord I might just make a scene at any moment, even right here at the Clinique counter in Saks Fifth Avenue. I touched on it in my other blog, how graduation is just this huge, messy, sprawling thing that can't be compartmentalized or even really dealt with. And I haven't dealt with it. I've lived happily in the land of not dealing. But the funny thing is I got a job basically on campus. And a large factor in me wanting the job was to be close to campus. Maybe it makes me a masochist, but I wanted very much to be surrounded every day by college, by the buildings and streets and trees that have been my life these past years. I have kind of lived a paradox - not really thinking about or dealing with graduation but smothering myself in the CofC atmosphere. And maybe it's because the end of the school year was so fresh at first, or maybe the second I got my fake diploma on stage I kind of went numb. But it hasn't hurt until now, being so close to the campus I no longer belong to. I guess I was just really good at convincing myself that if I walked the same routes and still ate in the Stern Center occasionally then I hadn't really left. But today I took a different route home, right through the college. And without any warning, it kind of just hit me, a soft but unmistakable feeling of grief. As I walked down St. Phillip, I thought of the hundreds of times I had walked that exact same path, coming back from a snack break between classes, running to a professor's office to turn in a paper. I passed the doors to Maybank, those doors I had cursed on dozens of occasions when I was tired or hungover, when for those moments they represented the entry way to fifty or seventy five minutes of academic hell. The street was almost empty but in my mind I thought of all of those times it was so clogged with students and backpacks and bikes, the rainy days when umbrellas created a colorful but highly lethal maze of sharp objects. In the last month I've wanted to believe that nothing has changed. I think it was important for my sanity, for my emotional state, to trick myself into thinking I had a little bit more time, that it wasn't really goodbye yet. But today, in a second, I just knew. I could work on the campus forever, become a groundskeeper or a janitor. I could walk St. Phillip a thousand more times. But the part of my life called college, the part of my life I almost convinced myself I could hang onto at least until the end of the summer. It's been over for a while now. This wasn't a pleasant feeling, realizing my days as an undergrad are done, but in a way it was a relief. All of the pretending I've been doing is exhausting. But more than that I think only now can I start processing all of this, or at least kind of start wrapping my head around it. It's funny how our minds play tricks on us in order to protect ourselves. In my case it took me a month of holding onto thin air and dreading the moment where I would have to let go before I understood that I had already said goodbye to the real thing. College let go of me.

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