Thursday, December 17, 2015

Saying Goodbye Means Forgetting

Today is the last week of my undergrad studies. On Friday, I graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. I'm not sure how I feel yet. It's a mixed bag of emotions. I finished one exam--which meant the final time I would be in class with one of the English professors. The other students discussed seeing her next semester, even if they won't have her in class. She said our final projects could be picked up any time next semester, but I won't be there. (It's a good thing my project was just a stack of papers.)

It was an odd feeling. I wanted to shout, "Except me!" I wanted someone to notice, someone to announce this was my last semester, that this was the last time I'd turn in a final, creative project as an undergrad. But nobody did. Nobody noticed. Will they notice when I'm gone next semester? Will they see an empty seat around the room and think, "I wish Jaime was here" or “Jaime would have an opinion to share on that.” Will it even matter that I graduated a semester early to save money (and my sanity)? Or will I become just another face to be remembered?

You see, I've slowly been cutting ties as this semester progressed. It sounds harsh, rude, even emotionless. But I've done it. I've stopped talking to people or didn't attempt to make more friends I would only say farewell too. Sure, I will keep in touch with some people; I won't lose everybody. But after I graduate, after they graduate in May, some of us will go our separate ways and become only memories, threads stretched thin and left to dangle. I won't mourn the loss of some friendships, as terrible as it sounds. Because I know it would be worse to feel neglected, forgotten, ignored in a few weeks when everybody complains about classwork on social media, and they pat each other on the back for their procrastination. I won't be a part of that. (I never actually was.)

I’ve still got two days of exams. I’ve got time to see people, to say goodbye. But I don’t want to say goodbye. In the words of Peter Pan, “saying goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.” I guess I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget the memories I’ve made, the things I’ve learned, the people I’ve met. I don’t want to forget going to late night in the cafeteria and goofing around. I don’t want to forget working at the library and the fun (and shenanigans) that occurred. I don’t want to forget adventures to the store, to Ecuador, to other schools. I don’t want to forget midnight meetings to write poetry and look at the stars. I don’t want to forget the books I’ve read, the papers I’ve written, the stories I’ve dreamed. I don’t want to forget.

But I I feel as if it’s already slipping. I don’t remember the plot of the book I read my sophomore year in American Lit. I don’t remember how it felt to stand on the equator, on both hemispheres at the same time. I don’t remember the feeling of walking down that torturous hill in the cold, dead of winter. I don’t remember the words I’ve written, spoken, or thought. I don’t remember. I’ve already forgotten. And I haven’t even left yet; I haven’t even said goodbye.

How much will I forget in the next month? The next year? Will my time have been worth it? I don’t know. I hope to find out.

Today continued my goodbyes. There are three people I won’t see again until after I graduate (unless they see me tomorrow, which is doubtful). I didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t want to bring it up when everybody was going ballistic over the exam we were about to take. (An exam I wasn’t worried about nor felt was very hard.) I didn’t want to say “This is it.” I didn’t want the pressure of the last words or the thought that I don’t know when I’ll see them again. Yes, the one will be getting married next summer--I’ll see her then. But will I see her in between? Will I see her after that? I don’t know. The uncertainty chews at me, nibbling away my thoughts one by one. I fear losing this safe haven, which doesn’t feel safe any more. I fear losing everything I’ve tried to gain the last four years. I fear change.

If someone tries to say goodbye to me tomorrow, I think I’m going to (if I can remember) say, “No. Goodbye means going away. Going away means forgetting.” Because as I articulated, it’s true. Going away does make people forget. We’re human; we don’t remember everything, and nothing lasts forever. Life is dependent on one thing: change (or death). We’re supposed to be adaptable, but I feel I’m not. I fear change.

Change means stretching myself to fit the change. Yes, it means growth, but it also means something is different, I’m different.

As I sit here with only one exam (a highly unprepared for exam) between me and graduation, I try to think of everything undergrad has done for me. I don’t feel different. I don’t feel more knowledge or wise. I don’t feel like I’ve got anything going for me. Sure, I can write a pretty bangin’ research paper (if that’s possible). I can tell you the real story of Frankenstein or minute details from Middle-earth. I can even tell you the detailed history of Christmas in the world.

But what has college done for me? I honestly don’t know. I would hope my money is well-worth spent. My time used to the best of my ability. But I don’t know. People said college is where I would find myself. But I don’t know who I am. I’m still the person who questions everything and spends hours dwelling on my thoughts, words, or actions.  I’m still the person who gets caught up talking about TV shows and movies instead of figuring how who I’m going to vote for president. I’m still the little girl who gets lost reading books and dreaming up stories. I just don’t know if the world is ready to meet this girl, or if this girl is ready to meet the world.

I didn’t find myself. I learned some things, but who needs to know the history of Christmas or the plot to every Jane Austen novel or Shakespeare play? How is knowing the ins and outs of storytelling or poetry writing going to put food in my mouth and wi-fi on my computer? What will the classes I took three years ago do to influence me now when I can hardly remember what the topics of discussion and lecture were?

Maybe it’s disheartening to think about spending so much money without gaining anything in return. But I’m not here to be nice or impressive; I’m not here to brag. I’m here to be honest. I’m here to express myself. And right now, on the brink of exhaustion and overwhelming stress and slight anxiety for what comes after tomorrow, I’m feeling very dissatisfied.

My academic adviser had one last conference with me for my final class with him. For a while, I’ve felt at odds with him and other students based on my perception of how this semester went in the class. I felt unheard. I felt ignored. I felt whenever I spoke people didn’t listen or care. But he wrote something at the bottom of the paper I turned in for midterm. And he said it to me out loud, but it wasn’t until hours later when I looked back through his final comments and my peer review feedback that I read those words again. And I almost cried.

“Dear Jaime: You have everything you need to make it.”

Today, I didn’t say goodbye. I said, “See you later.” Because there will be a later. Because people do care. Because people, in the middle of an exam, asked to say goodbye. Because people celebrated my accomplishment and congratulated me.

I finished my final exam. I felt confident in what I did. I felt confident in the whole last week of the semester after I fought so hard to get through these past four months. But I did it. I finished. I’ve completed undergrad and now I have a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. (I don’t physically have  the diploma yet, but I will soon.)

People ask me “What’s next?” My answer: “I’m just taking it one day at a time.” I have a few things coming my way, so we’ll see. One day at a time is how it always goes for me. I started a checklist of things to accomplish once I completed college. I’ve been able to cross off two so far. I’m sure more will be completed and more will be added to the list of things I should do.

-pay off loans
-watch Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (!!!!!)
-Read lots and lots of books (including: finishing Six of Crows and starting Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer)
-find a job?
-be happy

Later, I’ll be posting about my hopes, goals, and dreams about 2016. I’m going to also highlight books, moments, and accomplishments of 2015 at some point.

But for now, I’m going to sit back and let myself this moment to breathe. Because tomorrow is another day where anything could happen. Because today still feels like a dream world where I can’t tell if everything is happening. (Come on, I finished college and saw Star Wars Episode VII, this has to be a dream, right?) I felt surreal driving through campus one last time as a student, driving home from school and coming to the conclusion I won’t return in January (though my kind-hearted professor told me to have a good break), and sitting in the exam thinking: “This could be the last exam I take.” It’ll probably be the last literature exam I take.

It probably won’t hit me until mid-January when people discuss homework woes that I’m not there, that I’m not returning. That I’m finished.

It’s weird how when things change, the world still keeps going. I’m finished, but more students will study next semester and the semester after that and so forth for the foreseeable future. Star Wars is back and some people won’t see it, some people won’t care, and some people will never have the chance. I could say goodbye, I could say see you later. Both of those things or neither could happen. Because I won’t forget--not quite. I’ve written this moment down so it’ll be here as long as the Internet exists. Some people I won’t see again. Some people I will. And some moments will be remembered like they were a dream.

Because saying goodbye means going away.
And going away means forgetting.

But… the place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming... that’s where I’ll love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.

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