In four days I will graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
and this beautiful season will be over. I have wanted to write of the thoughts, lessons, and observations from these past weeks, but I rarely get around to doing so here.
Even so, I still write every day. And so today I decided, that for those of you I know will want to hear, I will share in a way I normally don’t. What follows is a series of excepts from my journal over the past few weeks—little pieces of my joy and indecision and taking in of life.
Saturday April 11
Today we have a science expo on campus with big white tents and live music and food trucks and little people. It’s one of those days when you know summer is coming and it’s going to be good. It’s a day that begs for sweet tea and chicken strips. There are people playing corn hole outside their cars, students in hammocks with puppies, and the trees are green again. And I love that it’s the South and that it’s mine for now. I’m nostalgic, reluctant, and thankful. Thankful for familiar crosswalk beeps, for people driving with their windows down and music spilling out, for songs I know, for the sway of the Alma Mater at the end of a baseball game at night, for waitresses who smile, for sides of biscuits and cornbread, for the dogwood blossoms and the magnolia trees, for a place to learn and belong and become a part of something. I am thankful for the places we have in the world to grow and test ourselves and be known. I’m thankful that I came. And that, I think, is the most important thing to feel when something ends—thankful that it was, and that you took the steps and risk to make yourself a part of it.
I don’t know where I am needing to process—the home I am about to leave or the home I am needing to now make. These are the moments when you don’t want to say goodbye too quick but you need to prepare yourself to say hello. And we are here, but I’m not yet ready, ready for the passing or for the newness. To become uncomfortable again in life. To shape, and make, and choose, and transition, and wander around and around in circles like a cat, trying to make a space fit me. And I want to ask for one more year like we always do when we realize we have reached the one-way gate of change. But I have always been glad to move forwards. I have never regretting saying yes to new possibility. In change I have always come to find more of me. We are not to be afraid of this. Carolina has brought me confidence and grace and large, beautiful steps forward.
Thursday April 16
I value things that are organic and changing and oftentimes make as little sense as steering with the wind. I value places where I have to go right and left and back and forwards and roundabout to arrive. Because it’s not as simple as “this is what I want, let’s go there.” It’s about how we get there—which way the seasons are turning and whether or not I can sail north just now without ripping open a sail. I have always been full of conviction, but never been able to say, “I will arrive here by these means.” Because it’s never until I’m out there that I realize that to head where I thought I was going, I must sail the other way for a little while. And maybe everybody else will get there before me, and maybe that’s okay. I’ve never cared much for speed. And there’s something about picking a path just because it’s the one most trodden that closes in on me like black air. My mum told me it doesn’t matter if you travel the back roads or the highways. And I believe this. I believe this like I believe bread and butter have essential healing qualities, like I believe music is magical and that magic is something we need. I believe, essentially in the power of the smallest things.
Today I showed a girl how to thrust her wrist to open a can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and that felt so satisfying. I helped a girl with a box that was falling off her cart, and she was thankful like she had stopped expecting help, even when it’s so simple. Helping people is simple. I made spaghetti for dinner and watched the sauce plop and bubble and that was it’s own kind of therapy. And I knew that these things matter. Perhaps this is true most of all in the big times, the change times, the times of questions, when we start looking large and up and grand, and forget to look across the street, across the bus, across the table. It matters to make soup and invite people over, and share nourishment. To provide things that took care and time and space and life lived and engagement. And perhaps what we are doing in the grand scheme of things right now, the 9 to 5 parts of it all, are not the most important things.
Tuesday April 21
Life these days is full, complex, layered, sliced through with indecision, moved forwards with an incredible willingness to embrace the unknown and make new things. It is daring and timid all at once. Unsure of itself, but sure that direction and goodness will come. And I am willing to ride here a little while—to free up the canvas, rest in the movement, pause before I connect the dots, and see if there is another way. I am making peace with being multi-dimensional and human, not asking myself to fit on one simple track.
Sometimes all that life needs is that little bit of a deeper breath, that extra minute to observe the sky and air. It needs us to stop pushing ourselves so aggressively through it. And that usually requires that we stop listening to whatever voices of “shoulds” and “musts” and “how could yous.” Sometimes all this needs is a more flattering shirt so you stop feeling so self-conscious in the ways that don’t matter. Sometimes spaces need to be filled, and sometimes they need to be made bigger.
I have never made a decision based on advancement. I’ve never directed my life to fulfill some external idea of what I am supposed to be doing. I have always navigated, as best I can, to be in tune with how I am growing as a person—whether I am learning to be courageous, kind, decisive, patient. Is it time to discover something new or develop something I have? Am I learning to work together or be my own person? What do I fear? What do I lack? These are the questions I have always asked. This is how I have always moved forwards. It’s how my parents taught me, and it has kept me true to me and the things I most want to build. I have used it as gravity away from the draw of the systems and the ladders. It has kept a centeredness, a belief that everything is not without guidance and help and intervention. That there is a great goodness that everything is more or less hurtling towards, even in its chaos. And this is a sweetness I wish to stay close to—to grow things, to engage in the slow, rewarding work of planting and tilling and watering and gleaning and giving to others.
I am gently quieting the fears—the ones that say I should have pushed on this door or that. And I am discrediting the idea that I should make a choice because it gives me something impressive to show, to hold up to the world.
Friday 24 April – LDOC (Last day of class)
Thanks to my time at Carolina, I now know what a croaky is, can identify seersucker, and have become acquainted with ocra, grits, and BBQ sauce that’s really just fancy vinegar. It’s the last day of class, and I’ve done it. I’ve become a part of this beautiful institution that is the envy of so many. I’ve filled my wardrobe with blue, tripped on brick walkways, thrown a colorful hue of purple into the air at Holi Moli, listened to my fair share of liberal skepticism about everything, and sat in rocking chairs on porches to eat ice-cream and watch spider lightening. There will always be more to do when it comes time to leave. And I try not to make decisions that are really just an attempt to hold onto something that is rightfully ending. I try not to rush out of this moment into the next. And I try not to buy up everything that’s soft, blue, or southern in the meantime. I try not to feel so behind that I hyperventilate. I try not to cloud over one accomplishment with roadmaps for another. I try to sit tight, notice how all the blossoms have turned to bright greens, choose the veggies not the cupcakes. I try to harness the little bit I have left to finish strong. And leave space for watercolors.