It comes upon me suddenly. Not when I least expect it, because I could have predicted it, but still, breathtaking in its swiftness. In need of free space on my phone, I was going through old photos, deleting mercilessly. And there it was: a picture that wasn't particularly interesting or well-composed, but it captured an all too familiar scene. The precious few hours of afternoon sunlight bending across my desk and the open, mostly blank page of a notebook. In the background, the upper story windows of St. Catherine's and the cut of the gable are like old friends. I feel as if I could lean a little closer and look down over Trumpington Street, or if I strained just enough to listen, I could hear the distinct hubbub of pedestrian traffic, a chorus of languages, of students and tourists and townies all going about their business.

It has been three months and three days since I got off my flight from Dublin, another four days on top of that since I left Cambridge. It's hard to believe that so few weeks have passed, but maybe that's just the union of space and time multiplying the days by the distance. So many miles and no going back. "Upon those who step into the same rivers, different and again different waters flow."

The school year began like a car crash. The Presocratic philosopher Parmenides denied that change occurs, because he claimed that we cannot think about what-is-not. He had his own reasons for arguing that, but the gaping pit of not in my ribcage begged to differ. I nearly cried when the professor for my majors seminar turned out to be an Englishwoman. It's difficult to say what was the hardest part, whether it was the hour-long commute clashing horribly with muscle memories of pleasant walks to lectures, day-dreaming about the world of trees reflected in silvery grey puddles, or the too long stretches of solitude. You find ways to cope. You even start to coax yourself back into the old moulds. But that doesn't mean that a second can't catch you off guard and leave you in tears.

How do I say this? I don't want to go back. It would be an impossible expectation--I know that now, with my spate of gap year community experiences behind me. The places don't change, or sometimes they do, but the atmosphere is never the same. The particular group of Footlights members who made me laugh til I cried on more than a few Tuesday nights will not be there ever again. The spring weather will probably not be quite so conducive to wet, cool rambles through the Grantchester Meadows, avoiding swans or cyclists depending on the track. The friends I've made will have moved on to other things, and the Americans, at least, will be an ocean away.

I didn't mean for this to be so unstructured. There is another thought in my head, and I usually try to work from the problem to the hope. But, in spite of the tears and the car crash opening, I feel like I've written all hope and no problems. How to explain? As I peel back the wallpapered shrine of remembered expectations and see the world-in-which-I-live beyond, I discover my wealth. For six months, I gave myself wholeheartedly to the project of remembering and cherishing every second. Even those last fifteen minutes of despair before hitting "send" on essays that I was not proud of: even those were loved in their own way. Who needs photo albums when I have an entire world of sense impressions inside my head? In a moment, I can be sitting on the bench by the library lawn surrounded on three sides by flowering bushes and watching the way the one blackbird flits back and forth from his perch above the old library entrance to the lawn as he calls music to his fellow on the next roof over.

And there is also myself. I am not unchanged, and that person who I've become is still in the process of discovering herself and her place in the world. She has remembered beauty and heartbreak and the way they go together. She is better able to deal with the challenges of philosophy and of engaging with the ideas of others. She knows some things that she wants, she's uncovered some issues that she really cares about. She doesn't know exactly where she's going, but she's going somewhere and that's something to hold on to.

This is not clean or neat. It hurts. It invigorates. It opens up possibilities and closes doors. Is this what it feels like to be alive with your eyes wide open?

No comments:

Post a Comment