I closed another chapter on Saturday.
I graduated from college.
And as I write this, I’m amazed at how it seems like only a couple of days ago that I was writing this about graduating high school.
And I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown since then.
I’ve grown stronger. I’ve made more mistakes. I’ve learned from more mistakes. I’ve made new friends and lost old ones. I’ve grown weaker. I’ve expanded my mind and realized the value of closing off distractions. I’ve become more . . . me.
I look back at these past three and a half years and I just think, “Wow.”
I look back on freshmen year and see myself walking to my 8:00 Spanish class in the early morning sun, listening to music by Spencer Kane. I see myself walking up the steps to the English building for my 9:00 class, readings about Gilgamesh and The Odyssey stuck in my head. I see myself in the back of a car going on a late night drive with my friends, on the way to pick up food from Cane’s or Whataburger while blasting music and rolling the windows down. I see myself in that dorm room the first semester, wondering at how new everything was and felt and how independent I was. I see myself in that same dorm room the next semester, tired of roommates who never left and a dirty bathroom no one else cleaned but me. I remember squatting on the floor of that dorm room one night, feeling the depression inside of me break and drag me down to a whole other level of numbness.
I look back on sophomore year and see an apartment that was so new at the time. I see more late night drives and movie sessions downstairs. I see myself walking across campus on the way to work at 7:45 a.m. I see myself walking back the way I came at 5:00. I feel the phantom echoes of the depression that bore down on me on some of these walks–the too-soon exhaustion of working 8:00-5:00 and the numbness of questioning if this was going to be my life from now on. I hear music from James Parson. I see a friend group fall-out. I see a return to God that summer that reversed the depression and gave me hope.
I look back on junior year and see the same apartment, now a little worn. I see less 8:00-5:00 days and more free afternoons. I see the same walk to work and back, now a little less tedious. I see new friends invited over to the apartment. I hear loud parties downstairs when I retire early for the night. I see myself starting to look forward to the next step, the next chapter. I see how some people really are–and I see how there is little I can do to change it. I see the value of my close-knit family increase as I learn that not all families are so close-knit–we are tight scarves and some are unraveled rolls of yarn scattered all over the floor.
I look back on senior year and see a pandemic. I see a new me emerging from the uncertainty of quarantine. I see myself find a new facet of my writing style in a poetry class. I see myself falling away from old career plans and falling toward a new one–one that excited me and really didn’t scare me, even though it was teeming with unknowns and uncertainties. I saw myself loosen my grip on control with these plans even though some of the vision is black–black, for now, for I know it will be revealed in time. I see myself working everyday on a project I didn’t know why I started in the beginning but was glad when, months later, I sat looking at a finished project, tired and proud. I see an exhausted, indifferent individual starting to feel the effects of burn-out. I see transition approaching.
And that’s something I never had to necessarily worry about when I ended my high school chapter: transition.
I knew what was coming next. Planned every step for it. Took care of every detail. Had my hands so heavily involved in the process of transition.
But this next chapter of mine . . . I only have the outline.
I don’t have the details. I don’t have the full vision. I don’t have control.
But I know the One who does.
So, for now, here I am–in this transition.
It’s a weird time. It feels like I’m just floating in air between point A and point B.
But it’s also nice.
Even though I still have obligations to attend to, I can take time to relax. Reflect. Think. Sleep. I feel a lightweight freedom, a freedom that doesn’t leave me tied down.
During my last week on campus, just as the leaves were really starting to turn red, orange, yellow, and brown before elegantly dropping to the ground, I was reflecting on this. And I realized that this time of year perfectly aligned with the idea of transition.
The leaves are dying, ending another chapter. And soon, there will only be bare branches. Bare enough in that moment to wonder if they will stay bare forever, if that next step will ever come. Will transition ever end?
But in the spring, the leaves will grow again and become an abundant green spread–a new chapter.
Transition is often scary, unwanted, dreaded. But I think there’s beauty in transition.
There’s beauty in looking back on this finished chapter and seeing all the good and bad moments–appreciating them for what they are–while you’re waiting on the new chapter to arrive.
There’s beauty in the dying leaves of the ending. Just as there’s beauty in the sprouting leaves of beginnings.
May we all have the eyes to see their beauty.
Enjoying the leaves and bare branches,