1997

I realized that it’s been ten years almost exactly since I graduated from college, and I have been thinking about that a lot this week (“Whoa, ten years. Dang. Wow. Ten. Okay. Whoa.”) and it turns out that it’s impossible for me to write about it without the following things I think are a little stupid:

“Man, that went like nothing.

and

“I would never have dreamed that I would be doing x ten years ago!”

and

“Sometimes I still feel like I live in a cinderblock single in Holden, directly opposite the nightly drum circle that was the scourge of my senior year.”

I am still close friends with a lot of people I met in college, and I like nothing better to reminisce about things that happened recently (“Man, remember that dinner party last weekend? Good times, man, good times.”) so it’s weird that I have a hard time remembering what I was like then, what I was doing and thinking. I do have some vividly painful memories of the night before I graduated, and of the extremely fun and weird summer that followed (that involved my driving a minivan naked through a DelTaco drive-thru, among other things), when I was living in a borrowed apartment across the street from the campus and going to my old work-study job every day and cooking out of the first Moosewood Cookbook every night. I can just about picture myself at age twenty-two: long messy hair parted in the middle, cutoff jean shorts and t-shirts eight sizes too big, taking classes in psychology and sociology and anthropology and women’s studies and Italian and dance, listening to a lot of Liz Phair and Alanis Morrissette and Fiona Apple and the second Cardigans album. I was Katherine in my best friend’s production of Taming Of The Shrew the semester before I graduated, and there was a polka band and a piñata at my birthday party that year. I was still involved in InterVarsity but starting to think about quitting church altogether, and I had no idea what that would even be like. My dad bought me a short tight pink dress to wear under my cap and gown and I stomped down the stairs to get my diploma in huge gold platform heels from Payless. (I think that diploma may actually still be in the trunk of my car, from when I moved to Seattle from California eight years ago.)

And of course I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Like everyone else (right?) I just…did things. I fell into my first job and into relationships and friendships and pretty much everything else. I’m trying to remember if I had some sort of master plan, if I wanted any one thing over any other thing. Did I then? Do I now?

I guess it’s really true, that stupid thing I said up there a couple of paragraphs ago: I really would have never dreamed I’d be doing pretty much anything I’m doing now. It’s not that I thought I’d be doing things opposite to what I’m doing now, necessarily, just that I couldn’t see that far ahead, didn’t have any idea what the future would hold. I’m near-sighted that way: I just kind of do what seems like a good idea at the time but tend not to plan out more than a couple of years in advance. The days and weeks and months spool on by though, faster and faster the older you get, and all of a sudden you’re living in the middle of the ten-year plan you never had in the first place.

I guess that’s the whole point: you can’t really plan. You can’t know, at twenty-two, how long your hair will be or which hemisphere you’ll live in or what kind of music you’ll listen to or who you’ll love or what you’ll want when you’re thirty-two, any more than you can know those things at thirty-two for when you’re forty-two or fifty-two or whatever-two. What you can do, though—and I don’t know at what point in the past ten years I figured this out—is decide that you’re going to be as awesome as possible, and love as much as you can, and do the best you can with the sense you have, and understand that we make our lives. I will have to check back in another ten years to see if I can discern any sort of pattern.

Update: I just learned that Yolanda King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest daughter, who spoke at my graduation, has died. She gave an amazing speech about social responsibility and people lost their minds cheering her when she was done. I’m sorry she’s gone.

2 comments

  1. Scott and I just had a conversation today about what we thought we’d be when we grew up, and the fact is, neither of us had any kind of concrete plan beyond “go to college.” It seems to have worked out. :)

  2. Man, I miss Del Taco.

    I remember a wild-haired, impossibly cool girl (surely far too cool to ever talk to me, I thought) who could dance, who could sing, who could act, and who could dare. All of these things were so exotic and incomprehensible to me at the time, living in my cerebral little world. We weren’t close in college, but you inspired me to take risks that have made me a better person.

    Related to that, I guess, I’m totally fascinated to this post. Jon and I do tend to plan years and decades in advance. While a certain amount of spontaneity is a given–I would never have predicted a move to Monterey–I think we really do have an idea of where we want to be at 42, and 52, and we were close enough with our guesses for 32 that I think we’ll get somewhere close. While I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was a child, Jon certainly did–he’s known that he wanted to be a mathematician since he was 8. Just another reminder of how different people are, I guess. :)