Five years ago Saturday, I was on my way to Chicago in a car with my family, speeding away from Taylor University. It had been hot in the gym. the weather was iffy enough that graduation needed to be inside, and I was sticky.
I had changed out of my strapless purple formal dress with the pockets. My mom and I had looked everywhere for it when I was home for my last spring break. It felt momentous somehow. It felt grown up.
After graduation, I’d taken off the black robe, the symbol of my studenthood. I posed for pictures with friends and professors, clinging to them with sticky arms, my mortarboard still on my head.
For months, I had been so ready to graduate. I was tired of taking classes and turning in assignments. I wanted to move on with my life, somewhere besides Indiana. I wanted to live somewhere I could shut the bathroom door, rather than in a dorm.
But as we moved the last of my things out of the triple room I’d shared with a gregarious Texan and a straight talking New Yorker, I found myself beginning to bend under the heaviness of the moment. I ran into my hall director on the way out, and even though we’d had our struggles, I’d hugged her goodbye and started to cry.
Those tears wouldn’t stop flowing, and so my last images of Taylor from that day are blurry, mixing well with the overcast sky.
I cried so hard that I fell asleep, nursing a dehydration headache.
We spent the next days in Chicago, visiting a family friend. Those days were an in-between place, a shelter from my fear of the future, and the weight of the past.
Before graduation, I told everyone that I was going into the wine business. Part of me did it because I was attending a school where drinking was against the rules and I was a bit contrary. Part of me did it because I wanted it to be true.
I started working for the largest winery in Spokane, fresh out of college. I filed, answered the phones, and poured wine when it got busy, or when a tour came in. I took home partial bottles after work from the tasting room, the ones that had been open longer than three days. In the evenings, I would sip a glass of wine and think about transition, about already and not yet.
I’ve had many jobs in the five years that lie between then and now. I’ve weathered transition so many times that I’m beginning to think it’s the rule, not the exception.
In the spring of 2010, I read the Harry Potter books for the first time. Every spring, I have the urge to pick them up again, but often settle for a movie marathon instead. This year, I cracked open the first book.
I am right there beside Harry, learning that his life is about to change completely, that it has already changed once. I forgot how poignant the first book is, how excited Harry is to travel to Hogwarts, but also how scary it is. He has his ticket for a train meant to take him to his future, but the platform doesn’t seem to exist.
It’s overcast today, and a little sticky. The past collides with the present and I can’t help but cry a little, because change is good and hard and always happening. I burrow deeply into my liminal space, between the already and the not yet. I wrap it around me like a nest.
If I close my eyes, I can still see that dorm, the third floor nearly empty, echoing. The underclassman had all moved out and on with their summers and it was just the old guard remaining. This was our swan song, we were alone with our thoughts in a building which usually made it hard to sleep, bustling with noise and activity.
I fell in love with parts of college. I fell in love with the way it felt to sit in a circle and workshop a piece of writing. I fell in love with a favorite professor’s stories about his son, often delivered at the beginning of class. I fell for the cozy bench outside the theater doors, and the art building at night, with my church, and Sunday lunches at a farmhouse, which lasted until the afternoon grew thin. I fell in love with the girl that I became in those two and a half years. With the first time I got a piece of writing back, graded, and I waited until I was sitting in the C.S. Lewis section of the library to look at it so that I would be with a friend. With the confidence I felt as I learned to wear skinny jeans. With the way I kept walking, even when I was afraid.
That girl is still with me now. She holds my hand as I keep walking, even when I am afraid.