[POI: a “deep existential moment,” as a friend put it, I had walking home from practicing in the early hours of the morning this past Wednesday]
This week, I felt disoriented walking the same paths, holding the same doors, complaining about the same nuisances–here, that includes a bureaucracy “to rival the Ottoman Empire’s” (according to my History of the Modern Middle East professor), a new credit cap that unleashes a different head of the same stress hydra, and inconveniently-located women’s restrooms (vestiges of the university’s more-sexist-than-today years). I felt the same strangeness answering the twenty-seventh question of “are you ready for senior year?” “does it feel different?” “are you…on the cusp of change?” It’s remarkable how, with a simple wring of time, everything you’ve known for three years somehow leans a different hue, is outlined another way.
And yes, I do feel different, but a comfortable different. Like things have fallen into place, the way milk, poured in languid swirls, fills the cup’s edges until the coffee emerges a spritely hazelnut color. Some constants will always remain so–rapidly-turning leaves landing with small thuds on College Walk; late nights on Low banisters, legs dangling off the ledge; early mornings gathering myself for the day ahead, accompanied by 0% plain Fage. It would be foolish to think that senior year will somehow be easier now that internships take up as much time as classes do, now that E.C. parties have reached a new zenith of affectionately disgusting.
As I walked home Wednesday at a brisk clip (notably, one thing that is wholly different is a chilly early September), the full moon cast a dull glow on the brick path. Since freshman year, many cycles of that moon have waxed and waned, but one has been etched particularly deeply. It was almost exactly three years ago, a few weeks into my newfound, but–as I discovered very soon after–soul-crushing job at the calling center. The air carried the same ominous bite as it did on Wednesday night. My throat was parched from talking to those who wanted nothing more than to stop talking to me. My head hung heavily.
I thought to myself, “why am I so lost?” It was the first moment I hated Columbia, a feeling particularly memorable in its forcefulness, and one that would seldom return. If admitting weakness for an overly-zealous eighteen-year-old was hard enough, confronting why the fuck she fought so ferociously to be at this school was unbearable. I wish I could rewind and tell myself to breathe, that it is never as bad as you think. I wish I knew, as I do now, how to honor each feeling as it materialized, or that some things simply cannot be planned for. That working very, very hard and sheer luck make a potent cocktail; that people who do unforgivable things can still redeem themselves, and that some people are simply unforgivable.
I thought about all this when I glanced up at that moon on Wednesday, many months later. Different year, with a different job (thankfully, one I enjoy much more), sporting a different haircut (#longlivethelob). A montage coursed through my mind, fast as a silk scarf being untied: I saw the many hours spent in rehearsals (or, since we go to Columbia, spent waiting for a room to rehearse in); the equally-numbered days spent in classroom chairs, some rickety and others sparkling new; the restaurants sampled; the friends encountered; the exams cried over; the tubs of Fage devoured; the professors experienced (interpret as you will); the cups of coffee and/or vodka inhaled; the winks of sleep missed; joy, resentment, heartbreak, grief, tenderness, anxiety, warmth, and doubt, so very many inklings of doubt.
And, really, senior year so far is variations on those themes. The past week has also seen me:
- Grind my own almond butter and bag my own granola at Whole Foods/buy boxes of tofu and kimchi at HMart like an Adult™,
- Suffering for the sake of reunions in the new Shake Shack lines some days, discovering a new love for packed lunches/cooking dinner with friends other days,
- Back on Low Beach, still toning my glutes on all twelve flights of Ham stairs, but no longer dependent on a bloodstream of iced coffee (!),
- Feel totally incompetent, and told that’s totally okay, at work,
- Flipping through syllabi wondering if/when they will ever end,
- Surrounded by, literally, pins and needles as my tour designer helped me look less like a puffer fish clad in black satin,
- Salivating over slabs of meat at Jongro, physically grinning at raw fish at Tomoe, tearing up at Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream,
- and applauding my roommate/better half since 2014 for trying new things™, like coding!
So, one could say I’m on some “cusp of change.” In nine months, I’ll join the Class of 2018 in throwing our Pantone 290 caps as high as we can, leaving without another blink. In two months, I’ll complete my first recital tour that, in one month, I will scarcely believe has begun. Next week, I’ll begin formal research for a thesis that, knowing me, will be the rant to end all rants, sealing the four years that have come to define me.
Tonight, though, I’m catching up on an already-absurd amount of reading like I’m still the most clueless girl at school.