Tag Archives: graduation

A List of Things I Want For You



One day, she’ll call me from a street corner downtown. She’ll press her fingertips against that storefront glass and that white dress will reflect in her hazel eyes. And she’ll cry as she tells me because she, she is the kind of girl you love forever.


One day, he’ll call me feet red and raw, ballet shoes folded in his bag. He’ll wipe the beads of sweat sticking to his forehead as he tells me that finally, finally it’s his time to shine.


We’ll be sitting at the breakfast table on Christmas morning when she leans over, quietly whispering that she’s found a place to tuck herself in. That she’s already picked out paint chips for the wall colors and she’s having couches imported from North Carolina and “want to come see it? Want to come see it someday?” Yes, I’ll say yes.


He’ll be standing on the sidelines, suit freshly pressed, headset over his ears. He’ll send me a text message because that’s his way. He’ll tell me that he has tickets to next week’s game, tickets at Will Call, and he wants me to come. I’ll come.


I’ll sit in the stands while he beams up at us, beads in a row of necklace string crowds, all of us strangers together in this little ceremony of goodbye. We’ll whisk him off to college & hope people fall in love with his heart & his smile the way we do every time he pulls us close. We’ll pray he never forgets to end a call with “I love you.”


She’ll call from the back office, trays of food shattering across the wood paneled floor in the background. She’ll pause only a second before she turns back to me, focused, heart set on leaving. “Leaving,” she’ll say. “I’m finally leaving.” She’ll tell me about the phone call, the role, the way they dreamed of only her sliding across the set and slipping on this story for size. And I’ll wish her luck. I’ll wish her home sometimes, but mostly, I’ll wish her luck.

I sometimes wish my body operated like an iPod.

Last semester, my creative writing professor asked us to go around the room and tell one thing we were good at.

The boy next to me said he made killer sausage and pepper sandwiches. We probably should have gotten married right then.

But seriously.

One girl said she was an expert relaxer.

And while the fifteen of us laughed and smiled and thought, “Isn’t that nice?” at the time, I know now that its something I am not.

I do not know how to take fifteen minutes or even fifteen seconds to breathe in and out. To make sure my body’s caught up with my racing mind.

The girl probably doesn’t know how invaluable that is, to be able to let go of all the worry and stress and move-move-move habits and just pause.

I sometimes wish my body operated like an iPod. I could pause at the calm moments and skip past the sticky situations. Repeat the ones I want to return to. And if I wanted to be a little spontaneous, maybe run around in the middle of a thunderstorm, I could set the preset controls to shuffle the songs.

My iPod won’t turn on anymore. Maybe that’s a sign from God that I’m driving myself into a ditch. That I forgot to recharge the battery and shouldn’t have let it sit in the glove compartment for half of the last semester collecting dust and scratches. Oops.

There was a time when relaxing was almost second nature to me. I knew how to compartmentalize my life into sections: working, running, school, collecting rays of sun by the pool. It was relaxing but structured.

Now, I’ve hit this snag where I want to do so much that I want to do and what I really need is to focus on one thing for more than 3.2 seconds.

I’ve been smacked in the face with at least three reasons why I should restructure my life and start tackling what I want. So I’m going to dive headfirst here and make up a list of things I want to cross off before graduation in 11 months. Before the Real World sticks its big hands out of its pockets and grabs hold of me and tries to smother me with the realities that come with college graduation: more bills to pay, loans to pay back, jobs to find, meals to cook, laundry to do.

(Don’t worry. I do know about paying bills and cooking and doing laundry. But there will be more of it, I am sure.)

I’m adding a tab for this list of mine and calling it 11 Months, 11 Items.

Even when we face the ocean, a wave might still knock us down.

I am playing Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye To You” on repeat, trying to conjure up a long-forgotten feeling.

me and kate

I am barely fifteen. Sure that the world is ending; running from the only family who ever accepted me entirely without question. I look to my best friend in the world: a skinny 10-year-old girl with a whole life hiding behind her bloodshot eyes. She struggles to breathe and I pull her close, sure that I can bridge a five-year gap with one embrace. Sure that I can transfer years of knowledge to her.

It doesn’t work and my mother pulls me away.

This is what I wanted, I remind myself. I wanted to run away.

Cut to present day. Wednesday night. I drown out the deadlines and mental notes scrolling through my head. I’ve been on campus for more than 12 hours — just another normal day.

I run up the stairs to my bedroom with a huge smile plastered on my face.

“I’m sad,” I tell my roommate. I don’t feel sad.

But seconds later, I’m back in that birthday party room at the gym, the cold tile floor burning beneath my bare feet.

“It’s just not fair,” I begin, my breath growing ragged with each word falling carelessly at my feet. I look down, trying to compose myself. “I always have to say goodbye more than everyone else.”

My roommate tries to interject, but I ignore her.

“I feel like I just graduated high school,” I continue. “I have to do this every three years?”

And then, the one truth I hold deep inside slips out. The one I only ever hint at.

“It’s not fair because it takes me so long to make friends. And now they’re graduating.”

Since I began college, goodbye has been a word ushered far more than hello.

I’m standing in my best friend’s front yard as she drives away in a bright yellow Penske truck on a sunny August morning. Headed straight for Florida.

I’m sitting in the backseat of my dad’s car as my friends wave in my driveway at 7 a.m. Surrounded on all sides by dorm necessities that suffocate me.

Walking back to my dorm room as that silver Mitsubishi Eclipse crests a hill on a chilly Sunday morning in February. The wet tears already stinging my face as the rest of the freshman class rouses itself from bed.

I’m hugging myself tightly on my roommate’s bed as I struggle to breathe. About to reach for my phone and retract the decision to break up with my boyfriend.

And now, standing in that same doorway, angry with the way goodbye falls quietly upon the world. The way it rises up to meet the hello’s and trumps them like a wave that crashes on me when my back is turned.

There may never be any redeeming quality in the word goodbye. There is nothing good about goodbye. Perhaps it should be renamed ‘badbye.’ At least then, we might know what we’re getting into.

me and emily

But now, as the weeks of the semester wind down, I am letting myself care about the people who leave me behind. Letting myself care about the friends I’ve made. I’m letting goodbye become a regularity. Because it is. Because there is no other option.

We can stand facing the vast ocean for a lifetime, but the minute we turn our backs might be the exact minute the wave builds, growing stronger as it smacks us full force. And then we’re on our knees, kissing the sand and drinking salt water.

Such is life. Years of preparation that take only seconds to be knocked down. The beauty, though, is the way we pull ourselves up so easily. Because sand tastes bitter and brushes against our sunburned lips, but it takes only a few seconds to right ourselves and face forward again, prepared for another wave.

And sometimes, even when we face the ocean, we still get knocked down.

"It's warmer in the water."

The future is 34 pushpins pressed into a map of the United States.

It’s hiding somewhere beneath the precision with which each was pinpointed. The future is shy and unforgiving and anticipatory and oh so unknowable.

“Probability says California,” Brooke, my roommate, tells me, cupping her forearms around a cluster of pins.

I nod, trying to imagine her in California. Me in New York City. Our other roommate in Washington, D.C.

I can’t.

It’s funny how one home transitions into another like that. Looking back, it’s seamless. But when you’re at the edge of each cliff and you’re ready to jump, it’s like the first time you realize the world is in constant motion. For three years and eight months, it’s pushed to the back of your mind. But then someone pulls out the big G word — graduation — and suddenly it’s everything.

You feel it rising up from the pit of your stomach like a sudden sickness that washes over you, forcing you to stop and sit down. To regain a sense of balance and stability. To find yourself on that map of pushpins.

Where will I be in the future?

I wonder.

“You’ll live on the lake,” I tell her. “I can picture it.”

And I can, now. The forestation rising up on three sides. A vast expanse of cloudy water in front of her. The sounds of her children’s laughter rising up in the background as she stretches out on the shoreline, digging the tips of her toes into the grass and dirt. She stops reading her book to crane her neck, motioning for her daughter to come to her.

“Do you want to go for a swim?” she asks.

The girl, whose hair is as white-blonde as Brooke’s, nods vehemently and starts tugging her t-shirt over her head.

She reaches the edge of the water, lifts up one foot, and frowns.

“What’s wrong?” Brooke asks.

The girl shakes her head and starts back toward the spot on the grass where my roommate’s stretched out.

“It’s too cold,” she says.

Brooke sets her book down. “How do you know?”

She shrugs her shoulders. She doesn’t.

“Come on.”

The two of them walk to the edge. Holding hands, they take a deep breath and wade, gently, into the murky water. A fish swims by on one side and the little girl squeals, latching onto Brooke’s leg.

After a few seconds, she releases her grasp. She wades out further and, without warning, dives under the water. When she emerges, she brushes her hair back and giggles.

“Brrr,” she says. “It’s warmer in the water.”

It’s the first moment that will make up a thousand others. The initial shock of icy water filling up her lungs grows into a comfort. It’s warmer in the water. What once was cold and scary and new becomes familiar and true.

Only one of those pushpins will become home for Brooke. Probability says California. But wherever she is, there will no doubt be the lake with the icy water. And try as she might, she won’t be able to emerge without shivering a bit. Because it’s warmer in the water.