2017 · About Me · Change · Grad School · Humanities · Self Reflection · Writing

So, What’s Next?

My HUMS CHUMS / 2017 / Photo credit to Daniel Fisher (Pretty sure he took this shot)

Maybe I don’t want to be ready yet. Maybe I don’t want to say goodbye. Well, life is not fair and this blog post is long overdue. I suppose that statement only stands if you believe that two weeks is a long time, but when I was a kid and I went off to camp each summer two weeks always felt like a long time. It was certainly enough time to fall into a new routine and when those two weeks ended the readjustment was always a bit of a jolt to my system. Perhaps that is why I have not blogged since the end of my undergraduate degree. Yes, it’s true, I am finished my undergraduate degree. Sam Lehman completed her degree in English and Humanities and now she’s facing the next step, grad school.

However, before I can embark upon that particular journey, which I refer to in my own mind as ‘Girl Meets Grad School,’ I have the whole summer ahead of me. I’m in a liminal state, see my Humanities degree is already being put to use, and my life feels unsettled. I’m not exactly walking a tightrope, I’m too afraid of heights for that, but sometimes when I put my feet down the ground feels unsteady. Although that might sound like a nightmare for someone like me who has backup plans for her backup plans I find that I am curiously reveling in my current situation. Over the past two months I have faced several fears – I’ve moved (not once but twice), I’ve handled rejection, I’ve walked willing in the rain (that one is less of a fear and more of an intense dislike), and I’ve handled myself at loose ends with grace.

Still, sometimes my heart hurts and I am starting to miss things, people, and places that I have no right to miss because they are all still here, in close-ish proximity to me. Still, I miss them. My heart is preparing for a real goodbye – not one with grand gestures, copious tears, and great promises – no, my heart is preparing for: the nods of thanks that hopefully say more than I can communicate with a hug, the thank you messages I want to write and send to the people who helped me thrive over the past four years, and the smiles that appear on my face when I know that some doors are closing for the last time and that’s really okay. It’s okay to move on, to move up, to move forward, and to go back – whether I’m ready or not. Life is going to keep moving and that’s why I blog, because I want a record of this life that proves the speed at which we progress through our stories.

“Still, sometimes my heart hurts and I am starting to miss things, people, and places that I have no right to miss because they are all still here.”

A dear friend of mine wrote a blog several weeks ago that touched on her own fear graduation and leaving everything that she has known behind. She made reference to a young woman that several of you might recall from one of my earlier blog posts, Marina Keegan. Keegan died young and left behind a small yet important collection of essays and stories, the most poignant to me is entitled The Opposite of Loneliness. Since I first read Keegan’s essay, I have felt the words of that piece tattooed in invisible ink upon my skin. Sometimes in a moment of extreme joy or sadness I would look around me and feel as if I was watching life unfold on a television screen. I would feel separate from the action, just for a moment, but I would appreciate that I was spending that emotional time with the people around me, who, had our lives taken different turns, I never would have met. My heart hurts when I read Keegan’s essay because I too fear losing the opposite of loneliness that one feels on a campus.

I am already mourning the loss of frequent conversations with my HUMS CHUMS. Who else in my life will ever appreciate my drawing of a sock to represent Socrates? Where else will I run into people who start talking about reality television and then end up debating the merits of various French existentialists? I have no doubt that I will find pockets of people who will engage with me on a number of subjects, and no doubt they will teach me a thing or two, but there is something special about how we interact in my program. I should also note here that I have found the English students I’ve encountered while completing my Combined Honours more than willing to go toe to toe on subjects such as Brontë, Canadian Literature, and the merits of small presses. Though the topics may be different the camaraderie is similar, although some connections and friendships certainly run deeper than others (on both sides).

Looking into the future.

We still have our HUMS Facebook group though, where we post memes and questions about the meaning of life. I hope that stays alive while we continue along our separate paths to the future. I hope that in twenty years we can all get back together and it will be as if nothing fundamental has truly changed. We might be married, divorced, or parents and I sincerely trust that some of us will be doctors (although not necessarily the ones who can help you on a plane, unless you’re struggling with a conference abstract), lawyers, teachers, public servants, and perhaps even religious leaders. The world often looks dim, especially now given the state of politics and the prospect of peace, but my classmates give me hope for the future. They make me laugh; laughter is one of the best weapons in the world, next to books, magic, and the Force.

Yes, I am going to miss that feeling of belonging when I walk into the lecture hall to find no one has sat in my seat because it’s mine and has been for four years. I will miss late night paper exchanges over Facebook and email. I will miss criticisms and comments on my papers that make me laugh out loud at 3 a.m. because they’re so ridiculous yet also so heartfelt and correct. Maybe I’m not ready to let those things go yet. Who says that they have to end? Maybe our late night emails will eventually become afternoon messages where we swap recipes, restaurant suggestions, makeup tips, and political views. Maybe late night phone calls will start being about letters of reference, work trips, and travels. Change isn’t a bad thing; it’s just different. Maybe I won’t lose that ‘Opposite of Loneliness’ – maybe it’ll just morph into something a little different. It might only exist in times when we cross paths every few years at a conference or when we bump into each other at a concert, but for those few minutes or hours that we talk we will recapture that ‘Opposite of Loneliness’.

“Laughter is one of the best weapons in the world, next to books, magic, and the Force.”

I’m done my undergraduate degree. I’m leaving Ottawa, Carleton, and my parents behind at the end of the summer to travel to Halifax, Dalhousie, and a supervisor. I am expecting a big adventure. I am making my life an adventure, filled with excitement, hard times, rain, sunshine, smiles, laughter, and an overwhelming sense of curiosity. I am marching off to the rest of my life armed with a love of learning and a drive to challenge myself.

Time to move on and up.

No matter where I go, I will always have an amazing army of smart people who love me and have my back keeping me afloat. Maybe I’m not ready yet, but all the same I find myself waking up each morning with this question on my mind, “What’s next?”

*Credit goes out to Aaron Sorkin and The West Wing for the sentiment in the last two sentences.

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