The last thing I wrote was a sinus-infected-hot-berry-tea induced jumble of words about artists’ books in the 20th century. It was thirteen pages long and I am afraid to check my grades to see what the professor thought of it. Since I graduated, I assume that I passed the class.
“Since I graduated” is probably the most unpleasant clause I’ve ever typed, spoken or let myself think about. I’m not even sure if it should read “since I’ve graduated,” and this uncertainty renders it all the more strange and unnatural. What in the actual Hell do I do now?
I’ve been joking about it for the past year, but I feel the humor in the self-deprecating “oh you know, bop around for a bit, maybe go to grad school,” start to wane. Waves of crippling fear wash over me.
Two days ago I was running, pushing my limbs forward despite their pangs of protest. I had to stop. I couldn’t catch my breath. Surely, I thought, only ten minutes in, I can last a little longer. And I knew it wasn’t the shape I was in, or the distance I was running, that was holding me back. It was the wind. It didn’t feel natural, that cold air on my sweaty neck. It scared me. That’s what it is–that’s the origin of the crippling fear. The wind.
The wind that makes the sun feel cold. The overpriced coffee that’s gone sour in the pot. The sand between your toes that becomes sand that won’t come off of your feet. Singing the words before the song has sung them to you. The look on your mother’s face that doesn’t match her words: “I know you’ll be fine.”
These are the things that scare me. Why can’t I be frightened by the prospect of unemployment and homelessness? Because I can barely even fathom a change in the weather. I don’t know how to change with the change that sits on my chest, whispers in my ear, wakes me up at night. College cradled me for four years. Yes, there were rough times. There were moments (months, even) when I wanted to be anywhere but there. But then, sitting in the mugginess of an almost-raining day, I was suddenly donning all black, attending the funeral of my comfortable existence.
I am afraid of my own independence. I am afraid of being eight hours away from the boy I’ve spent almost every day with for the past two years. I am afraid of being more than a two hour drive from the safety of my home (my Home home, not the place I live when I’m away from it). I am afraid that the barely-there future life I’ve planned out is the dream of my sister, not our dream together. And yes, when I have moments of big-girl-real-world practicality, I am afraid that I will not be able to find a job, and that I will not make any friends, and that I will forever wish I had majored in Economics instead of English.
And you know what scares me more than the wind and the uncertainty and the looks on everyones’ face when I tell them that “I think I know what I’m doing but I actually have no idea that’s ok right”? I’m afraid of my own excitement. I’m afraid that I will find a job and that I will love it. I’m afraid that I will work endlessly and tirelessly to save up money and that with my money I will pay my bills, feed myself, and plan for a cross-country road trip. I am absolutely, 100 percent afraid of the person I have yet to become. Who am I when I stop worrying about deadlines for papers, about my exercise regime, about my two minutes younger and wildly capricious sister, about the future of my long-distance love, about the ways in which to thank my parents for all they’ve ever done? It’s not the what that’s frightening after all. The what is happening and there’s nothing I can do about it. The who, though–that’s scary as shit. I can control the who. And I’m not sure what I’ll do with her.
The last thing I wrote was the final paper for my undergraduate career. This thing that I’m writing now is the antidote to that damn wind. Because when it stops, the sun feels pretty nice. And for a few seconds I feel very still. If I can have moments of this in the frantic, unknowable year to come, then I think I’ll be just fine.