I have fallen in love with graphic design. If was bound to happen, the next step in a long line of nostalgic photo collages + scrapbook pages + Xanga icons I designed (and will cringe at forever) as an angsty teenager, fit to ride around with my sunroof open and my wannabe alternative music blaring through the speakers.
My roommates yell at me if I go outside without shoes on. There’s always a reason. Someone had a house party last night and smashed beer bottles now litter the front lawn. There’s rocks and twigs and ice and — yeah, I know.
my cousin running along the shore, into the waves
The world is full of patches of black ice. We can’t see them, but then we’re spinning and we wonder how we could’ve been so oblivious in the first place. Because we cannot know what’s in front of us. Only that right now, we’re passionate about this one thing.
It’s not that I want to step on a shard of glass. Nobody does. But I want to be trusted. I want to walk barefoot.
Simple enough, right?
We trust five-year-olds to spin around blindfolded and not knock into the piñata or smack someone in the head with the Louisville slugger. So why can’t we trust a 21-year-old to walk into the street without shoes on?
A large part of me worries I won’t fit into the world. Because I would rather spend my Easter Sunday in a room with no air conditioning for 13 hours, coming home at 10 p.m. with dirty black feet and tired eyes. Because I would rather skip winter altogether and sit in an Adirondack chair, reading a novel with the ocean foam kissing my toes.
“Some days I want to live alone on the beach with a pad of paper and a pen,” I wrote three years ago. “I’d find the perfect spot, right where high tide hits. Not too far from the water so I could still hear it. And I’d write forever. There’s a lifetime of things to talk about.”
I went on.
“But then I have days like today when I just want 3 kids, maybe 4, and that chaotic life where I’m driving all over creation. Something where I wouldn’t have any time to think about what’s going on in my life, just that it’s happening,” I wrote. “I think that’s what would keep me happy.”
I won’t fit in. I’ll run in circles, undecided between wanting it all and none of it. I lose my roommates’ trust and I’ll accidentally step into the street without looking both ways. I can’t help but wondering if my transparency has worked in my favor.
No one should make you question yourself. No one should make you worry that you don’t have it figured it. Because nobody else does.
We’re all stepping into oncoming traffic, just in different ways. The black ice sneaks up on even the most cautious driver. There are an infinite number of moving pieces in the puzzle of the world, and we think we know the outline and where the one piece goes, so we try to shove it in. But it’s wrong. All wrong.
And so I’ll walk through the cool grass in the summer heat without shoes on. I’ll let the pavement blacken and callous the soles of my feet. Let the sun kiss the back of my neck. And time will wind down. Nothing bad will happen.
Trust yourself. Trust to know what you love and what you want and trust that nobody in this world ever really knows who they are or where they’re headed. All they really know, right now, is that they want to be where they are. That’s all we can know, isn’t it?
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.