March 25, 2009

The End is Nigh - Well, Not Really

I find myself unaccountably nostalgic. It took me a while to label this slow, sad feeling. It took me a while to understand. Then I realized, this is my last year. In about thirteen months, I’ll most likely be gone from here, and not gone for a week, a summer, a few months, or even a year. Most likely, I’ll be gone gone and not coming back. My lovely little condo will be sold, most of my furniture too, maybe my car. My cat may be with me or she may be with my folks for an indefinite amount of time. I’ll be leaving and I don’t know where I’ll land.

That’s nothing new. I often don’t know where I’m going, but I’ve always known where I’m coming back to. There is a word in Japanese that I’ve always liked – kaeru. It means to return, but unlike other verbs it means to return to somewhere specific – home. So now I’m kaeranai, “not returning.”

This summer I’m being a good girl. I studiously ignored all the internship advertisements for wonderful and interesting places I’ve never been before and arranged with my boss at DHHS for thirty-hours a week and tuition remission on my research assistantship over the summer. It’s going to be so damn boring, but that’s okay. I’ll take those few extra classes that I need, write, paint, maybe plant a garden, and enjoy my last summer in Lincoln, the kickoff to my last year.

Who knows where I’ll be next summer? I’m applying for a Fulbright Scholarship that would put me in Japan for twelve to eighteen months after graduation. I’ve asked my folks to hang on to my condo if I get that, just so I have a landing pad on return, while I hunt for the much overrated “real job.” I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll land in Phoenix, odd as that entire idea sounds. I don’t know if I’ll get the scholarship, but the odds are better than even. If I don’t that will accelerate the “real job” plan and the odds are high I’ll not be staying. There just aren’t enough jobs to go around for all the graduates the University puts out.

So I find myself looking around my bright condo and gazing at the stone tower across the parking lot and still green capitol lawn. I hug my cat until she squeaks. I make mental lists of what I should box up and take to Good Will. I think how nice it would be to replace the windows or refinish the floors, but what’s the point if I’ll be gone in a year?

I’m not really worried about where I’ll land. I’m not even worried if I’ll like it. I just like where I am so much right now. My place is so bright and airy (sometimes downright breezy, thanks to the eighty-year-old windows). It’s the perfect size – large enough not to feel cramped and small enough that I can’t accumulate too much junk. I love the tiny little kitchen and bathrooms, two rooms which I care the least about, and the awesome walk-in closet that is bigger than either, big enough to store lumber and paint and power tools and my mother’s saddles.

I love the old building and the slightly run-down neighborhood and the big oak trees. I love the sound of morning doves and the way the weather people on television get all hyper when there is a tornado warning. I love the hustle and bustle of campus. I love Arch Hall with its thousand steps and cramped studio spaces. I don’t really love going to class or actually being a student, but I love the stuff that comes with it – working for the paper, taking part in the student organizations, arguing in the senate, and annoying the faculty. I love riding my bicycle around our wide downtown streets.

Ya know what, though? I still get to love these things after I leave. And I’ll find other things to love wherever I go.

I have started reading The Quantum and The Lotus.

“Buddhism stresses the importance of elucidating the nature of the mind through direct contemplative experience. Over the centuries it has devised a profound and rigorous approach to understanding mental states and the ultimate nature of mind. The mind is behind every experience in life. It is also what determines the way we see the world. It takes only the slightest change in our minds, in how we deal with mental states and perceive people and things, for ‘our’ world to be turned completely upside-down.”

I thought about that today and I thought about “turning my frown upside down.” I don’t have only a year – I have a whole year. I don’t have to leave – I get to leave and go explore somewhere new. That lasted about sixty seconds until I realized that, fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with being a little sad and a little nostalgic. (There might be something fundamentally neurotic about being nostalgic for a place you won’t be leaving for over a year, but hey, I’m not going to judge.) Being sad is okay. It’s actually a good way to be, because it opens me to all sorts of experiences I might have otherwise taken for granted. As long as I’m not moping around and dragging other people down with me, it’s all good. Sad doesn’t have to be suffering.

So as I walk home tonight, I can appreciate the fact that spring is coming and it’s not that cold. I’ll walk through a city where I feel safe (even though I’ve been called na├»ve for thinking I am).

The world is big and, provided I don’t get hit by a bus, I still have a long way to go.

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