In the past two months, I’ve learned that graduating college means you’re put on the receiving end of a whole lot of life advice.
The occasion is positively ripe with platitudes. Sometimes graduation speakers help with this: solid life advice cushioned by beautiful language (think all you need is love meets “Ordinary People” and you have the commencement address from my school this year). At other times, though, they don’t (still trying to figure out what that one speaker meant by an anti-plan…? Ah well).
Basia and I forged our own advice, or at least found it for ourselves–her with Night Vale’s the future always flinches first and me with Lord of the Ring’s forth and fear no darkness–but that’s just us, and there’s only so many times you can give yourself advice before it starts sounding silly.
My friend Lizz sent me a letter that included the best piece of advice she’d gotten upon graduation: be where your feet are.
So far, I’ve found that one surprisingly difficult. I like to think I do a decent job of sinking roots into wherever I am at the moment, but the thing is–just now, there are so many places that my feet aren’t.
They aren’t at camp, or even in North Carolina at all; they aren’t walking by the sea; they aren’t hiking around Ireland or standing on the Giant’s Causeway. They aren’t even going on family vacation at the end of the month. They’re just going to work and trying to not get plantar fasciitis again. note to self: never walk to Chinatown and back in your Toms ever again. Don’t. Just don’t. My sister, Emalyn, wrote me a card that included three things she’s learned about life.
one. live in the now. make memories & let yourself enjoy where you are. two. but… don’t forget to think about where you’re going. strive for great & work towards your goals.
three. always remember where you came from.
…and of course there was that fortune cookie that said you are next in line for a promotion at your firm :), but I’m not putting much stock in that one. I mean, I don’t even think there is a chance for promotion at my current job–at least, not without a doctorate degree of some sort or another.
All of that aside, Em makes some good points. I do try to live in the now–to be where my feet are–instead of living by checkpoints and milestones and where I want to be. I do try to remember where I’m going (although I’m still pretty confused about where that is).
And I always, always try to remember where I’m coming from, because that is just as important as the other two and is sometimes easy to push aside in this culture of individualism, this system that supports the idea that you are what you make of yourself and not what you are in relation to others (whether people or places or anything at all).
Me? I come from a family of five, whose sense of humor is a little off-beat (to put it… simply). I come from five different states, too–five different places that have shaped me in different ways and introduced me to different friends, all of whom I’m remarkably blessed to know. I come from libraries and bookstores, from scribblings in notebooks and neatly typed blog posts, from a middle school with Latin classes and a high school with a weekly Meeting for Worship and from my rather pretentious prestigious university.
I come from mugs of tea clutched tight during finals week or shared with friends after a long day, from working at a camp that taught me to be creative and patient and brave–it’s not everyday that a nineteen-year-old has to learn how to split worms in half with her bare hands and then bait a hook with them, okay?
I come from letters written and letters received, from postcard pictures taped to the wall, from bike accidents at seven and twenty-one that left me with scabby knees and scraped up hands, from a dorm room redecorated at least five times a semester, from baking adventures spent inventing new cookie recipes and trying out family favorites. I come from quiet nights spent at home and busy nights spent working backstage on various plays and in-between nights spent hunched over organic chemistry notes and yet another cup of tea.
I come from nights spent listening to live music and watching spectacular fireworks with friends by the river.
And while I haven’t done particularly well at being where my feet are in these last few months, I think I’m starting to learn how to do that again. And while I’d jump at the chance to be at camp tomorrow, or back in Dublin, and definitely not walking to work in the forecasted 51% humidity… I like it here. I like spending nights by the river with my friends, or going to the Baltimore Dollar Strolls, or planning outings to see movies in the park, or planning nights at the local theatres, or spontaneous lunch outings after church, or even spending the whole afternoon baking peach-blackberry cobbler and s’mores pie for a friend’s Fourth of July party, or all of my Saturday cleaning and organizing my new room.
I’m still not really sure where I’m going, but as I told one of my friends today–do any of us, really? I don’t think so. Life seems pretty full of twists and turns to me, and I can only imagine its path gets more convoluted without a school schedule to structure it. From what I can tell, Miss Frizzle had it right all along when she told her class to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.
I learned a lot from Miss Frizzle–and not just that time traveling to dinosaur times is not always the best idea–but I think that phrase about sums it all up. It’s like that other fortune cookie I got, the one I got when a friend treated me to lunch during my first week of Real Person Work.
a ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not why ships are built. It reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia at the time–maybe because Becky’s was reading them recently, or maybe because my mom taught me to always make “text to text” connections. Either way, all I thought of was of course he’s not safe. But he’s good.
Life isn’t as good as Aslan, but it isn’t safe, either. It’s messy and dangerous sometimes it feels like all I know about life is that taking any amount of steps into it feels like that famous line from A Christmas Story: you’ll shoot your eye out, kid! And sometimes you might (not literally–or at least, I hope not). Sometimes, it feels like those gravitron rides that spin so quickly, centripetal motion forces you against the wall and into the air and leave you slightly breathless and confused about whether you just had an awesome or a terrifying experience. Probably it was a bit of both.
Life is full of wishing you were one place and being another, or wishing you could stay in one place instead of going to another. I’ve been to both spots recently, and they’re tricky. The real trick for me, though, is not getting too caught up in nostalgia or too worked up about the maybes and the morrows that you forget that you’re living today.
Here’s a secret: you’re here, so make the best of it. be where your feet are.
Tonight, that’s a comfy blue armchair that’s older than I am and the latest installment of a friend’s book-in-progress. Tomorrow, it’s work–and that’s okay. It might not be great, and it’s definitely not as awesome as camp or Ireland, but that’s okay. One thing at a time. After all, I’ve never been good at multitasking. First things first: touch up that nail polish. I’ll figure the rest out as I go.