About once a month for the past twelve months since I graduated from college, I’ve ventured back to the not-that-lovely city of Springfield, Ohio to visit my friends who are still students at Wittenberg. I go to my favorite bar, get gratuitously drunk, make cynical comments about “the real world,” impart slurry, sage-like advice about living it up while you can, stumble across campus and crash parties I wasn’t invited to, raid the kitchen of my sorority house, and pass out on the futon in the room where I used to live. It’s a comforting ritual that has eased the pain of my quarterlife crisis, allowing me to cling onto the unreality of life in Springfield for just a little bit longer. Gretchen and I refer to it as “re-livin’ the dream,” because we get to briefly enjoy the debauchery of Wittenberg without any of the responsibilities of actually being a student.
Last weekend, the remainder of my close friends at Wittenberg graduated, and I watched the ceremony on a projector screen in the humanities building and drank wine out of a coffee cup and wallowed in disbelief that it has actually been a full year since I walked across the stage, shook the president’s hand, got my diploma, and fist pumped myself into the real world. Graduation seems really foggy in my head, mostly because I was trying not to pass out from heat exhaustion (read: hungover), but also because I didn’t really pay attention to the ceremony because I was trying to keep myself awake by doing crossword puzzles with Drewby, because our president gives the same speech every year and our guest speaker was some guy named Zackie who is apparently an AIDS activist and talked about the education system in South Africa, which really had nothing to do with me or my graduation, and obviously I was only interested in the aspects of this ceremony that were all about me.
What I’ve been realizing lately is that I’ve spent the last year unable to move forward because I can’t let go of the life that I used to have at Wittenberg. I’m having a hard time facing the fact that the next phase inevitably won’t include many of the people who were essential to my life at Witt, and that I have to grow into the person that I’m going to be as an adult because I can’t stay the person that I was in college forever. As much as I’d like to, I can’t, and I have to find a way to bring the valuable aspects of that version of myself with me into my new life. It’s just hard reconciling that after living in the suspended reality of Springfield for the past four years, and I still don’t know how to deal with a world where I can’t solve every problem by getting gratuitously drunk with one of the many friends who were less than a block away from me no matter where I was at Witt.
I think I’ve always had a certain reckless aspect to my personality, even if it sometimes only comes out in subtle ways: like in the fact that I can’t commit to a career path, or even to writing this blog, because committing to something- even something that I want and that I know will make me happier- feels like a burden somehow. Ever since high school I’ve been telling myself that the specifics about what I do and where I go in life will never be as important as the friends I have who make the journey and the experiences worthwhile. But what happens when the friends simply aren’t there for you anymore? What do you do when you have to make sense of the world around you without the context of the people you love to guide you?
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m still having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that the next phase of my life, and every phase after that, won’t include my ex boyfriend. I was so committed to the idea that he would always be a part of my life, and it’s just strange looking back on it because I don’t know how I ever got to a point where that was something that I needed so much to feel grounded. I never wanted to be that kind of person, and it’s strange to me how much I took his constant presence for granted. Visiting Wittenberg always dredges up those feelings, as much as I don’t want to acknowledge it. I walk by the house where he used to live, and I feel sad because I miss the comfort and contentment that I felt there, and because I know that I’ll never feel that specific brand of comfort ever again. Going back to Witt makes me feel nostalgic for all sorts of things, but it’s easier to reconcile missing Gretchen’s old house or missing Station or the front porch of Hollenbeck or the Snake house when I can talk to other people who also experienced those places and who miss them too. No one gives a shit that I miss my ex boyfriend’s house, and it’s been so long that it shouldn’t be an issue anymore, but it’s just one of those things. I’ve never been good at letting things go.
But now, after a year of wallowing and reliving and missing it all more than I could ever put into words, I no longer have an excuse to constantly thrust myself back into the Wittenberg world. I feel like I’m finally reaching an actual crossroads in my life where I’m ready to move forward, where I can make a natural transition into the next stage rather than being forced to move on when I’m simply not ready to.
There was this really surreal moment when I visited Wittenberg two weeks ago for Wittfest where I was outside at Station talking to Stephanie, and this song that I’ve recently fallen in love with by The Avett Brothers came on the jukebox. It’s the perfect saudade song, and it was a good way to wrap it up and give me some illusionary sense of closure, if nothing else. Illusionary closure is the only way we ever really get on with it anyway.