What’s Left Behind

“For college seniors there should be a week of being allowed to cry. Just break down and cry because you are scared and don’t know what’s next.” -Bill Cosby

Ain’t that the truth. But in all seriousness, college brings with it the last time we as human beings have a timetable for when things will begin and end. We go to elementary school and it has a beginning and an end. We go to high school and it, too has a beginning and an end. Then comes college and that too has a beginning and an end. But once college ends, then comes the wonderful time of uncertainty. We don’t know what the hell is coming our way or what we are supposed to be doing next.

Some people may venture into graduate school – like I did, but even that too has an expiration date. Whatever the case may be, school has a finish line, and all too often we find ourselves way too close to the ribbon before we even know we are ready.

This feeling has played itself out a handful of times as a graduate student. Going to the same college where I was an undergrad has had its highs and lows. First, the biggest low is returning to the same place without all your college friends. I had a few stick with me in different programs, some in my own, but for the most part a huge majority of my friends had departed for different cities, different jobs, or different universities. It’s like going to live in your childhood home without your parents and siblings and even the kids you used to play with a few houses down are gone, too. It can be an overwhelmingly defeating and lonely feeling. It makes you almost resent the place because it isn’t the same as it once was. But really what does ever stay the same?

The pro was that I was still able to nurture and build on many relationships that I valued including those in the department that I work and study in. Working with professors you studied under, especially in a field you hope to pursue is like free experience and advice (Talk about getting some bang for your buck). Not to mention I was able to really take time for myself and the things I really wanted to explore like internship opportunities, traveling and even deepening my faith. I looked at this period of graduate school not as a continuation of undergrad, but really as a way to brace myself for the real world. That mindset made all the difference and if I didn’t have it I’d have collapsed a long time ago. I started to do the things I always wanted to do, I was working my ass off, studying hard and getting experience. I was finding a routine prayer life, I was journaling everyday and writing constantly.

I felt as though I was really starting to create myself.

This past year for me has been the perfect buffer that helped me get answers to the questions I put off in college, while also bracing myself to accept the reality of those answers. To make my dreams a reality, I need to leave Buffalo and when I graduated last May, I didn’t know that – I didn’t feel that. But now given the time of graduate school – the time I took to just kick my own ass, beat myself down, say “yes” to everything and lose plenty of hours of sleep – I now know where I’m headed. I may not know specific cities, specific jobs or anything of the sort, but I know the person I want to be, the things I want to see, the goals I want to accomplish and because of that I have a vision that is guiding me to a destination that scares the living shit out of me, but secretly (and I don’t even like to admit it) excites the same living shit out of me.

But even with this new vision I can’t escape the constant reminder as I drive to campus that life will not be as simple and as carefree as it once was. Truth is: it won’t be and it never will be. Sorry, guys. This is the hard lesson of this post. Nothing will ever be what it once was. We all have to leave things behind. We can’t possibly fit every person, every nick-nack, every college memorabilia in our car as we road trip through life. But really why would we? We would just be cheating ourselves of the room we need for all the new souvenirs that we will be getting along the way.

We are going to leave things behind. We are going to leave places behind. We are going to leave people behind.   But I know living in my college apartment partying with my fellow Griffs forever – while extremely fun, no doubt – would simply rob myself and all my friends of what we could and will bring to the world. Why settle for simply wondering about life when we can go out there, throw caution to the wind and just live?

Trust me, there are days that I wake up and I wish I could go back, but most often those are the days when I don’t feel my best. I’m feeling lazy and unaccomplished. There are some days where I sit back and just think about how fast time flies and how fast college just came and went.

That’s the tricky thing – you never quite know when a good thing is over, until one day you wake up and you suddenly realize that the world you thought you were living in has changed. But that is life. It can be funny, or twisted – depending on your sense of humor – but once we seem to get comfortable, life goes and pulls the rug out from underneath us. And as a person constantly on the go, wanting to try something new, explore a new place, meet someone new, I’m glad that there are more surprises in store for me.

The rug is going to get pulled out from underneath all of us, someday. It’s just a matter of whether you are going to cling to your past and fall on your face, or use your past as a motivator to summersault back onto your feet. The tricky part is that the past can be a double-edged sword.  We can either live in the past and not learn from it or we can appreciate it and use it to find what’s even better.

And trust me – life is just beginning. Graduate school may have kicked my ass this past year, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I managed to keep in contact with all my friends from Canisius through breakups, hookups, makeups, jobs, schoolwork, family, loss, and love. You name it and the fact that all 20, 30 or 40 of us (who is really counting?) can pick up the phone and have a conversation like no time has passed just proves that even while the times may change, our love for one another does not.

We may leave things behind. We may never all be in the same place at the same time again. It’s scary to think that that security blanket may not cover us like it once did. But that just means we are opening ourselves up to the world – its people, its places and its experiences. And there is not one thing in the world more exciting than that.

You will always have the friends in your life that you want there, that you take the time to celebrate and comfort, but life is going to give you more to appreciate and love along the way.

You will always have your childhood home and your college campus to call home, but life is going to give you cities, towns, maybe even foreign countries to call home as well.

You may leave a few things behind, but that just means you are making room for the wonder and love that awaits your life to come. And whatever you leave behind will always remain in your heart and nothing will ever be lost in your heart.

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