I graduate tomorrow. Early morning. Then I meet my family and we all fly home. Everyone asks whether I'm sad or happy or what. With my usual ambivalence, I reply "A little of both." Enough of that! Let me amend every previous opinion and say with the confidence of someone who knows he has no other option that I am entirely, one hundred percent happy about graduation.
Most likely Senior Week did it to me. That was its unintentional effect - a week to remind me of everything I disliked most about college. The supposedly cute or inspirational or hip activities that ended up being a desperate attempt to pleadingly convince me to have fun. The endless dances and parties where everyone except me is happily hanging out with zir girlfriend/boyfriend and drinking. The nonsensical regulations.
And at the same time, the things I love about college are all gone. My freshman and sophomore and junior friends have long since gone home. Classes are long since over. The clubs and the newspapers and the library have stopped meeting and publishing and being open. The rain keeps me from the Glen and turns the walkways into a mud-soaked swamp.
And there are other things, too. Everything's become too full of memories. Some of them bad, some of them good, but all of them just being there and being memorable and confusing me and making me all emotional. There are too many people who for some stupid reason I don't like or who don't like me, too many people who like me and always want to do things with me and I still have no idea what their names are, too many people who consider me a friend without me even understanding why. It's not that any of this is bad - it's part of life, and an important part. It's just that it's to the point where it feels about to bury me. What's that verse from the Shelley poem? Something like "And now he fled astray / with feeble step, o'er the world's wilderness / and his own thoughts, along that rugged way / pursued, like hunting hounds, their shepherd and their prey." That's how I feel.
Or to put it another way - in the forest south of Hamilton, there's a sign with a map of all the trails. All these years, I've taken all the trails except one, which I was just never able to find. Just last week, I found the last one. It led to a little field with lots of yellow flowers. Now I've been on all of them. Why stay somewhere when there are no more unknown trails to explore?
There is a lot that I wish I had done differently even though I know that if it all happened all over again I would do everything exactly the same. That's not a contradiction! There are just certain things I wish I could do but cannot. I wish I could have connected more deeply with my friends, had people to whom I was connected in a deep and meaningful way rather than just people whom I liked, joked with, and occasionally had dinner with. But I just don't do that. The connection just doesn't come through. And it's not my way to rework that, try again and again to reinvent myself. It is more my way to erase everything and try again. I know things will most likely turn out the same way, but at least there will be that short little grace period when anything is possible.
I have not yet found what I am looking for. I am still not even sure what it is. But I feel like I am more prepared to look for it. The college is deliberately refusing to call tomorrow a "graduation". They want to call it a "commencement". Because I am "commencing" the adult portion of my life. I'll go for that. I'm not as ready as I could be, but I'm ready enough. Prepared to follow Truth and Beauty, wherever in the world they take me. That's what I need to do and I think I can.
My provisional plan for the rest of time is as follows. Go to Japan, stay there a year, maybe a year and a half. Come back, live at my parents' place for (God willing) no more than a few months while I work in some sort of hospital in some sort of menial position and apply to take the three pre-med courses with which I'm still not finished. Take them wherever I can find them. Live in that city until I get accepted to medical school, working whatever jobs I can find. Get into med school, trade five otherwise valuable years of my live for a piece of paper allowing me to practice psychiatry. Practice psychiatry according to terms listed on piece of paper. Pay off med school loans. Buy a copy of the Codex Seraphinianus. Travel around the world, at least once to Greenland. Meet a cute, compassionate, slightly geeky girl, fall in love, miraculously gain the ability to tell her so, marry her, have a honeymoon on Santorini, have two identical twin children named Aleitha and Kalissa. Get a yellow Labrador Retriever, or a Newfoundland. Go back to Greenland, through-hike the Appalachian Trail, do amateur research into consciousness-expanding machinery, climb Mt. Whitney, donate enough money to a charitable organization to have my name on a bench somewhere. Learn to speak Finnish. Travel the Trans-Siberian Railroad while listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Write a long, expressive poem that none of the critics appreciate because it's in the 19th century Romantic style. See a polar bear in its natural habitat. Make such a deeply important contribution to the field of psychiatry that someday people use my name as an adjective, as with "Darwinian" or "Newtonian". Retire to Dingle, Ireland. Operate a lighthouse. Memorize "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage". Design and build my own home in a never-before-seen, distinctly Hyperborean architectural style. Live there until the age of eighty, then, in the traditional Hindu fashion, vanish into the woods and spend a the rest of my years secluded in meditation. Die.
But if I can only do a few of those things, that would still be pretty sweet.
Context for the misty-eyed.