Thursday, May 23, 2013

Step #1: Put on your pants

I know, I know. I promised an active blog and then I disappeared for over a month. But I promise you, I had good reason!

This past Saturday, May 18th, 2013, I and 693 other classmates graduated from Skidmore College! My four years of undergraduate education ended in a flurry of bagpipes, standing ovations, and one lonely walk across the stage for the official handshake with President Glotzbach. I received the fanciest of alumni gifts with a beautiful business card holder engraved with my alma mater's name. (Don't worry, the alumni association also got me a pen last month. They treat their graduates with care!) But in addition, I received the gift of final thoughts and moments with some incredible friends. Saying goodbye was the hardest part. Or so I thought.

My goodbyes had been happening over the past two weeks, but Saturday and Sunday were the worst for me. With final words of wisdom for my Junior friends and final farewells to those I'd just graduated with, I got in the car with my mom and tried to hold back my tears so that I could talk her onto I-90 and get us on our 21 hour journey back home to Nebraska. I had planned a spectacular road trip with many mother-daughter conversations including details about her own graduation, senior thesis, and future plans. Unfortunately, I was so overcome with emotion, I found it difficult to talk. I didn't bring up any of the exciting conversations that I'd had planned and whenever I wasn't driving, I found myself just longing for sleep.

Now, I love my mother. She is my best friend and the only one to whom I know I can tell absolutely everything and judgement will not follow. Because I'd just left so much love behind in Saratoga Springs, NY, I couldn't bring myself to connect more with her. I'd experienced such deep connections with my college friends and had to sever them so quickly that I needed to nurse my wounds.

So, we drove in silence punctuated by the occasional sing along to a great song on the radio. I think my mom sensed that this trip was difficult for me, and she and I both longed to be home in our beds so she made the decision to drive through the night. Although the plan was initially to sleep in a hotel and finish the last few hours the next morning, she was convinced by the experiences my brother and I had had on our own road trips where we chose to ignore the hotels and just drive home. She decided we were wise children and she and I drove on through tornados and rain storms. We arrived home just after 5 and brought in the necessary bags before crashing in our beds for a few hours of undisturbed sleep.

When I woke up, it was all I could do to get myself out of bed. I lounged around the house in PJs and she and I made plans for the rest of the week. I changed into clothes long enough for us to get groceries and cook that night's dinner. We watched some DVR'd TV and I changed back into my PJs the moment I was back in bed. When I woke up the next morning, I didn't put day clothes on until I realized my mom would be home in an hour for dinner and she probably didn't want to see me still in my PJs.

I was useless. I couldn't unload the car, which held every piece of college life that I'd been able to fit. I couldn't begin checking all my emails and move myself further along in my trip to South Africa. I couldn't make an appointment with the local post office (Yes, I still haven't gotten my new passport) and I couldn't get out of bed.

I didn't realize it until two days ago, but I was in mourning. The life I'd been so used to for the past four years is over and I had to rush so quickly from graduation to the trip to moving back in at home that I hadn't given myself time to grieve. I'd cried through goodbyes, but not really realized what they meant for my future. I'm still processing this past week and realizing how final everything is, but what I've recently realized is that I do need to move on.

As much as I loved every moment I was at college and as much as I've loved every person I met while I was there, I can't linger in the past anymore. I need to start imagining a new future for myself that involves independence and travel. I need to plan for a distant future which will involve a real career and moving out of my parents' house. But first and foremost, I need to go to South Africa.

Today was the first day I could get a little bit done. When I got out of bed in the morning, I put on my day clothes even before heading downstairs for breakfast. I emptied the few bags in my room and unloaded a few more out of the car. I sent a couple important emails and made a plan for the rest of the week that would get me started on this journey. When I sat for a little bit and allowed myself to think, I did remember how sad I was, but the distraction of things that needed to be done helped ease that pain.

For the first time in a week, I'm looking towards the future instead of back in my past. And all it took was putting on some pants.

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