Grad Season

It’s that time, bittersweet from the inside, a little ridiculous on the outside. Driving through downtown, there’s a pack of college girls trailing a photographer, each wearing a matching flower crown. At the front of campus, a girl in platforms steps gingerly as she positions herself for photos in a picturesque clump of tulips. The restaurants are crowded with raucous college students.

We’re in the end of the school year homestretch.

I remember that nervous energy, that exhausted relief, the giddy excitement and intolerable sadness. Walking across campus and trying to soak it all in, turning in last papers, the Middle Georgia humidity hanging above our heads like a curtain about to fall. For me, May 2008 was an especially bittersweet time: I was leaving the college I loved and two weeks later, marrying the boy I’d loved for five years. I didn’t want to leave; I couldn’t wait to go.

Life doesn’t have those set definitions, the concrete end points, anymore, as I walk the park in a drizzle that feels too cold for May, even up here in Virginia. Grown up life, after undergrad, is different. Library school, for me at least, was kind of a thing I did in my spare time until I didn’t have to do it anymore, passed alongside people who all finished at their own pace. My last three jobs sort of petered out with the arrival of each of my kids. In this most recent move, I didn’t know I was waking up to my last sunrise over those ridiculously beautiful mountains until we decided to nip Pip’s anxiety in the bud and moved to the new house that very night.

That’s the way it works, in Grown Up Land. You won’t know the last day before you’re pregnant, or the last day before your baby comes, until in hindsight. Endings mostly sneak up without fanfare.

Watching those 22-year-olds crossing items off their bucket lists, snapping memento shots, I live that strange May month all over again, with all its sadness and anticipation. There’s such beauty and ache in knowing something is your last time. I’m not sure I’d want it back.


No fancy photo session needed: some of my most beloved Mercerians (and J the interloper) celebrating the end of college at the Otis Redding statue
Some of the same girls with me in Tallahassee two weeks later, for the start of a new chapter

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