This May, I attended my sister’s high school graduation. It was very much like my own grad, two years ago. Most of the girls wore long, sparkling dresses, and struggled to fit dark blue caps and gowns over their beauteous hair and attire. The banquet spread was delicious, the speeches went on forever, and the dancing lively. It was all very familiar, though as different and new as the group of graduates were from me and my cohorts, two years ago.
As I listened to the 50 or so graduate speeches, amidst picture snapping of the familiar grads, I was reminded of my former self. The young girl who thought she was so very mature and grown up. The seventeen-year-old whose blue gown barely fit over the hoop skirt of her handmade, shiny purple dress. The young woman who gave a speech, which everyone praised, but that she herself did not even fully understand the meaning of then.
Oh, that girl. That dear little girl in the purple dress, clutching a red bible, and smiling haply. Where did she go?
Down the path of the hopeful to the little university she felt was so beloved. Through various first and second year university classes, where everything began so crisp and new that September and ended in bitter exhaustion come December. She began so gladly that first day, with hopes higher than the university bell-tower, for everything that had been, and mostly, all that was to come.
As grads recited speeches, I remembered her, in that eager anticipation, light of heart, and faithful spirit. Grads talked about their college, university, and job plans so solidly, as if knowing exactly what the road of post-secondary would bring. I remember talking like that, too. But really, everything was just a cloud of new, unknown, unrealized hopes and dreams back then.
I remember making my first schedule, utterly overwhelmed by course IDs, and fitting times and days together. I pronounced the professors names–Dr. Such-and-Such and Mr. So-And-So–imagining how good my first impression would be in their eyes. I bought books early, of course, planning to do pre-reading to make the course load lighter; all the while, I wondered what the classes would actually be like.
Eventually, it all set in. The schedule was up and down at first, but with a few weeks, I relaxed into it. Surprisingly, I found myself on a first name basis with most professors, though not all of my first impressions went as smoothly as I had dreamed. Not so surprisingly, I laboured over reading right till the bitter end of that first cold semester.
I shudder to think of some of the miserable days of my first semester. Cold nights traveling home, the staggering exhaustion, and the fear over getting things right. The deep and utter loneliness I felt. These were the not so good days I never bargained for, but surely received.
Yet now as I look ahead to my third year, I wonder where those first weeks and months went. Part of me believes I’m still that anxious freshman for the time has gone so quickly.
But the other part knows it can’t be true for the knowledge I have now. I look ahead dismally to the September leaves, knowing exactly what next year will be like. There’s nothing new or exciting about being an upperclassmen–you’ve already done the semester thing four times and the pattern gets old fast.
I’ve learned the rhythm of classes. In two years, I’ve mastered the beats, the rests, melodies, and crescendos of student hood.
Now, as I think on it all, I realize that I long for the new, in all it’s misery and brightness, once more. There are things I wish I could do over either for regret or just the pure joy they brought because there is something beautiful about the new. There is something lovely about having to get to know something, to learn about it, and come to cherish it. I guess that’s why we buy new clothes and trinkets, make new friends, and enjoy the passage of milestones like graduations, university, new jobs, marriage, and children.
The new of university, I realize, is mostly gone now. Things may still change a bit as each year is a slightly altered song yet the newness I long for is that of freshman hood, when everything is kindly new for a few days of bliss. I know I won’t get that back.
Yet in my almost-upperclassmen-wisdom, I’m certain there will be other shades of new. Newness comes in seasons and I’m sure to experience a thousand more.
I appreciate the beginning of a journey, in all it’s excitement and uncertainty, much more now as I long again for that season of spring, knowing it was good to me. But I suppose there is beauty in the summer, the fall, and the winter as well. The middle and the end are just as important as the beginning for without them we could not see the results of our journey.