taylor swift and time passing
When my older brother turned 22 a couple years ago, I quoted the infamous Taylor Swift lyrics on his birthday card. Not being as familiar with her work as I was, he read the card and turned to me, puzzled: “Why are you telling me this year is going to be miserable?” (I guess 22-year-old guys don’t hear the T. Swift references on their birthdays as much as the girls do.) I’ve been 22 now for just over a week, so it’s hard to say exactly if I’m living up to T. Swift’s “happy, free, confused, lonely, miserable, magical” mantra. But as a description of my senior year of college, it sounds about right so far.
Over break, my high school friends and I met up at Moe’s Southwest Grill, a chain restaurant that we have somewhat inexplicably been obsessed with for years. In our early years of college, our lunches there mostly consisted of swapping stories of the most college-y things we’d been doing and gossiping about people we’d gone to high school with. At this lunch, though, the conversation was entirely focused on post-college plans. This friend is trying to decide between med school and grad school. These two are graduating a semester early. This one might move abroad. For once, there was almost no gossip. (Key word being “almost.” We haven’t entirely changed, for which I am thankful—when everyone’s lives are so uncertain, I’m glad that some things stay the same.)
Right before I went home for Thanksgiving break, I got a flu shot. The student giving my flu shot asked how old I was and I answered “21,” adding that I would be 22 in a couple of days. She mentioned that she was also a senior and feeling apprehensive about growing older, just as I was, explaining, “When you’re 21, you’re still in college. But when you’re 22 … that’s an age where you could theoretically not be in college anymore.” And then she stuck a needle in my arm.
So far, senior year feels like that—I’m minding my own business, and then a sudden sting. Every day something comes up and reminds me: inevitably even the most mundane conversations will end up going from school to jobs to the rest of our lives post-college. My roommate and I talk about the possibility of moving to New York City and what that would mean for the future. I grew up in the suburbs—my childhood was all running around our backyards and quiet streets with my neighbors. “I can’t imagine raising kids in NYC,” I say. Or, the truer thought: I can’t imagine raising kids at all.
It feels like every couple of days someone I know is making a big life decision. One of those neighbors I used to run around with got engaged over Thanksgiving. My Facebook feed is filled with people getting engaged or moving in together or doing all kinds of adult-y stuff. My friends and I talk about whose wedding we’ll go to first out of all the couples we know. So many people I know are in serious, long-term relationships, and I’ve had nothing more serious than a couple dates in my whole time at Brown. Senior year of college might not be the time to start looking for a relationship, but it’s hard sometimes not to be jealous of friends who’ve had much more success in this area than I have. In high school, I held out hope that college would be full of dates and possible relationships; at this point, I’m holding out the same hope for post-grad life.
I remember being a senior in high school and feeling so excited about what was to come—moving away from home, college, real life. I didn’t know where I was going, exactly, but I knew that college was the next step, and I was so excited and ready for it. But now, as a senior in college, I have no idea what the next step is. There are so many possibilities, but that sureness of what I’ll be doing next year is gone, and sometimes it terrifies me how little I know about my own future.
But possibility isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As more and more of my friends have graduated and are working in the real world, post-college life starts to seem more appealing. I could go anywhere—Boston, NYC, Philly, San Francisco—and do anything. (Well, not quite. It’s unlikely that I’ll start my career as an engineer or a computer scientist anytime soon.) I’ll meet new people and take up new hobbies once I no longer have homework—the only aspect of college I am 100 percent ready to be done with.
At the beginning of 2013, I started a project where I wrote down one good thing that happened to me every single day. It only lasted a couple months, but it’s fun to look back at those scraps of paper and try to recreate my optimistic freshman year self. I’m mentally doing the same for senior year, because I know those kinds of moments are the ones I’ll remember: champagne and linked arms with the other band seniors at our last home football game. The carton of eggs where four of the 12 eggs inexplicably, improbably had twin yolks, and I held my breath every time I cracked an egg for the next week, eager to see if there would be another surprise yolk inside. Late nights doing homework or watching The Great British Bakeoff with my roommates in our dilapidated but cozy living room. Burning garlic literally every time I try to cook, but still making some pretty decent meals. Dinner with my suitemates from last year and how easy it is to fall back into our routines even when we don’t live together anymore. Speaking up more consistently in class after being timid about it my first few years, and feeling like I actually (sometimes) know what I’m talking about. Walking on the Main Green through the falling fall leaves and thinking how goddamn beautiful this place is and how lucky I am to have had four years here. I still don’t know what I’ll do or where I’ll be next year, but for now, I’m embracing the magic of senior year: a mixture of possibility, of fear, of appreciation for my life as it is now, of excitement for the future.