The inevitable anniversary blog

It’s been a year. Since I graduated from college, that is. That fact is so hard to believe.

marci, catherine and me

From the right, my friend Marci, my roommate, Catherine, and me. We met at our pre-orientation and ended up being in a lot of classes together since we were all English students. This was taken before the big ceremony. No one looks good in academic livery, but we didn’t do too bad. 

In many ways, it still feels like I’ve been on an extended break, that I’m still waiting for the call from my university, wondering why I haven’t come back to finish up my studies. But I did finish and I do have the diploma, and now I have a year’s worth of work, interview, and writing experience I couldn’t have seen coming. And through all of that, I’ve learned a lot. The following list is not a list of things I’ve learned and then moved on, it’s more of a summing up of bits and pieces that have been reinforced to me over and over during this first year in the “real world”.

  1. There will be twists and turns you won’t expect. And things will not go your way.  Learn to be okay with that.
    I’m not going to get into too much detail here, but suffice it to say that the dreams I had of getting the perfect job and moving away from home right after I returned from school did not happen. There have been so many days that I’ve beaten myself up because I feel like it’s my fault that I am not where I want to be in life right now. While I know that sounds stupid (and it kinda is), it’s also an understandable reaction. People’s dreams sometimes take a long time to come true, if they ever come true at all. And while that’s discouraging, being upset about it doesn’t help anything. So if you ever feel sad because you don’t feel like you’re where you’re supposed to be in life, it’s okay to be sad, but don’t let that sadness weigh you down. Use that sadness as fuel to keep going. You can do it, even if you don’t think you can.
  2. Celebrate your successes, even the little ones.
    It can be easy, especially when you’re just starting out, to ignore the successes you do have because they are not the kinds of successes you’re aiming for. Success involves a lot of plodding along on a path that will eventually take you where you want to go. It’s so dumb and demoralizing that (at least in the U.S.) we have this idea that success occurs in a shoot-to-the-moon kind of fashion and that once you are deemed “a success”, you better do all you can to hold on to that title and that validation. While those stories make for interesting fodder for Hollywood, I’d safely wager that if you ask any successful person, they’d tell you just how long and how difficult a journey it was. So celebrate your little successes, because that means you’re one step closer.
  3. The key to being thankful is being observant.
    Noticing the little things and taking the time to be thankful for them is almost, maybe even more important thank being grateful for the big things.
  4. Getting an interview doesn’t mean you have to take the job, if they even offer it to you.
    Since I started my job search late last May, I’ve had several in-person and phone interviews for different jobs. The one thing that has been consistent with all of those interviews was the fact that I got incredibly anxious about moving and how I would handle the job before the interview even happened. While it’s important to be well-informed about the job, what you’ll be doing, and where you will potentially be living, it’s also important to keep yourself calm and not to get ahead of yourself. While getting an interview is a good sign, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the job or that you’re going to have to figure everything out at the drop of a hat. Take everything as it comes and don’t try to climb the mountain before you’ve even arrived at its base.
  5. There are some things school hasn’t and couldn’t prepare you for.
    School, like everything in life, is a mix of the mundane and the magnanimous. It’s only now that I’ve been out of school that I realize just how much of school I found boring, even though I know I’ve been incredibly lucky to attend school at all. I’ve also realized that, though school feels like it finishes your education, it really is only the beginning. I remember my Victorian lit professor telling us that when we were discussing the influence of England’s universities on the writers of that period. He said something like, “The end of our formal education is only the beginning, which is why they call graduation commencement.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little reflection of my time out of the education system. If you have any school/life stories you’d like to share, please do! Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, stepmothers, godmothers, and mothers-to-be!

 

The open door on Halloween night

My grandmother always left

her back door open

on Halloween night, no matter

if the moon glowed golden

or the stars were slow to creep out

or the snow came swirling in.

“It’s for Bailey, the baker’s boy,”

she’d explain, even when no one asked.

“We went to the woods to play

with the ghosts, way back

when the world wasn’t constantly alight

and screaming.

He never did find his way home.”

The last time she told

that story

was fifty years ago.

Now it is my turn to open

the door

as my grandchildren squabble over

Halloween candy and their parents

referee them amusedly.

The night is calm and deepening dark.

I close the door, feeling like the

senile fool my neighbors

who live in the houses

that weren’t there twenty years ago

no doubt think

I am.

“Here we are, Bailey,” a tiny voice, reminiscent

of grandma’s drawl, whispers.

“Home at last.”

“There’s leftover candy

in the punch bowl,” I say

to no one and smile

at my silliness.

Perhaps I am going senile

after all, though that doesn’t explain

the heap of wrappers

cluttering the carpet

come morning’s light.

Remembering the hard things

Five years ago, I was in France. We landed at the port extremely early in the morning after a peaceful yet cramped crossing of the English Channel. After going through customs, I and my travel group had a breakfast of  sugared doughnuts and the creamiest hot chocolate ever. Then we got on a bus and headed to Normandy. Of our whole trip, this was the part I was dreading. We were heading to the Normandy American Cemetery.

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As part of traveling in such a big group, we were told to go everywhere in groups of at least four. Yet as we walked through the cemetery, we all drifted apart, walking through the rows of graves with nothing but our thoughts to keep us company. It was such a beautiful day. The sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze, and the grass was a perfect shade of green. The channel lapped against the beach where so many ran, fought, and died. I couldn’t help but feel so grateful, that these men had been so brave and that they had such a gorgeous place to rest. But at the same time I felt so sad and so guilty. I felt that it shouldn’t have happened, that so many men should not be so separated from their families in death as they were toward the end of their lives.

Though I felt so mixed up about that day, I remember it as one of the most profound of my life. Because it was then that I realized it was okay to let the past affect me, to learn from the fact that I could walk in the surf of what once was a bloody battlefield. Because the people of the past give us what we have now. They give us their good things, but also their bad things, and it’s important to remember both. And whether we like it or not, the past in turn affects us. It shapes our mentality, our culture, and how we view ourselves on multiple levels. And however far we progress into the future, we should at least remember the past, because one day, we will be the past and others will have to deal with what we leave behind. And on this day, five years after I walked the verdant pathways of the Normandy Cemetery and one hundred years after the horrendous battle of the Somme, I am struck again by what I learned. It is okay to let the past in. Don’t let it cripple or break you, but learn from it. Like all balances, it’s delicate but necessary to move forward.

the somme

Photo credited to: http://www.britishlegion.org.uk