This morning my phone alarm went off at 6:00 AM. I’m so unused to waking up this early that I woke up steaming mad, thinking, Who the freak is calling me in the middle of the night?! Then I heard the muffled sizzle of steam from the stove, smelled the warm, sticky sweet tang of pancakes, remembered that Mom always wakes up this early, no matter what. She has for the past twenty one years.
This is how I start the first day of my last semester at Utah State University, likely my last semester as an Aggie, maybe my last semester as a student, depending on where life takes me. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’m afraid.
I forgot to blog on New Year’s Eve, which is kind of weird for me, as I’ve documented every new year since I graduated high school. I don’t even have any resolutions except for one — become a better athlete so I can play sports with my siblings without klutzing around. But this year’s as new as anything I’ve ever experienced before.
I’m graduating from college. The first one to do so in my family for a very long time. And that humbles me.
Part of me wanted to make today really sentimental and symmetrical, a perfect loop connecting me to that first moment I stepped onto campus beneath an umbrella of torrential rain. But it’s been mediocre, really. My car started, I breached the small hill leading from the plaza to the Quad in a low-hanging fog, I watched the breath of other students around me twist and disappear into the sky, and I slipped into Dr. McCuskey’s class, the last of his that I’ll take.
“Most of you are graduating this semester. There’s not much I can teach you, at this point,” he told us. “And at this point, it’s far too late anyway.”
He says it with a chuckle, but it makes me wonder if I’ve taken advantage of what I’ve been given, if I’ve learned everything I needed to or wanted to. The answer is a haunting no and no. I know that when I walk through the buzzing aisles of the bookstore and run my fingers along the spines of books I could have read had I only taken a different path, gone a different way. What if I had? Who would I be?
Not this girl, surely. But maybe.
I drift around for a few hours, curling up in the Institute building I’ve come to call a second home. Minutes, hours, and faces slide past there. It’s easy to forget the questions. Questions like:
So what are you going to do with an English degree?
What are you going to do after you graduate?
What next? What now? What then?
The truth is that I don’t know. And yes, that frightens me.
When I went to my last class today, I went to a class that makes me feel inadequate, a class that makes me feel like I don’t have anything to offer the world unless I’m writing about pain and religious discontentment and sex and free love and drugs and affairs. I have to pretend to have those things and know those things and exist among those things to be looked up to, and I don’t. And I don’t. And it is in those seconds when I realize maybe that’s my purpose: to “don’t.” To give something back to the world that it isn’t familiar with, that it doesn’t celebrate. To become someone different.
Maybe that’s why I came here. To find that difference.
Almost four years ago, I stood out in the rain and wanted to die because I hated this school. Now I can’t imagine what it will be like to leave it. Where will I go? What will I become? Who will I meet?
Every part of me — my physical growth, my spiritual growth, my family, my friends, and my education — is attached to and centered in this valley. Ghosts of me are curled up in the dusty rocks of Logan Canyon, resting in the crossroads of a small country town or the hallways of a musty high school, drifting across the hills and sidewalks of a centuries-old university that my dad wanted to attend but never did. I found myself here. In every way. What am I going to find when I move on?
I guess that’s what makes it adventure.