Up Til Now

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Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you: and by funny I mean entirely unexpected, rather unamusing, and somewhat unwanted. But that’s the way it works, all at once and while you’re not paying attention. I’ve had so many questions from friends and family concerning my plans since crossing the stage in May to receive my diploma. I in all my scatter-brained busyness have hardly had the time much less the inclination to answer every well-meaning inquiry, but I’ve decided it was high-time I brought the world up-to-speed.

I’ve found myself in the unique position of moving rather deliberately from stage-to-stage these past few months, carried along by events that have felt out of my hands, and in a way that most do not have the privilege of experiencing. I slipped easily from the world of undergrad classes and into the waiting arms of a relationship, and an internship that would keep me distracted from the wait-period following my interview for a full-time job. God knows my tendencies, and in turn gave me lines to memorise and stage tasks to fill the weeks of what would otherwise have been anxious hours. The internship’s end bled into the job’s start (which I did get), while also leading me to the people who will become my flatmates in the house we just discovered will be ours for the coming year. All of these things shifting gently one into the other almost imperceptibly until I suddenly realised that life had been circling for weeks, moving in slowly and knocking me out in surprise: guerrilla warfare of the most ordinary kind.

Ask me at age sixteen, fretfully counting down the days until I reached adulthood, where I would be at twenty-three: “Europe,” I’d probably say “reading books along the Seine” or “bicycling around Reykjavik;” “writing in a flat overlooking London.” Ask me a yaer ago and I would have said the same thing. Certainly not Pennsylvania: certainly not settling down, not by any means.

I am a gypsy, and I like to travel light: one blanket, my trusty pillow, a few pieces of clothing, and a battered copy of Eliot’s poetry in hand. I arrived on-campus my last year of undergrad, my entire life packed in two suitcases under fifty pounds with room to spare. I am always yearning to roam, and I am certain to be equally prepared to do so. I moved to six different homes the summer of my junior year alone. As long as this wanderlust keeps me itching for another quest, my dream-home has sworn to stay relegated to photos of rooms filled with softly filtered light. Commitment and settling down for me looks like an excess of blankets and pillows, a wall of bookshelves filled with my own personal library, the contents of which have spent the last four or five years over two thousand miles away, packed up in cardboard boxes.  

Suddenly these days I find myself perusing websites and store walls, asking friends what they use, what they think.”Don’t even think about it,” breathes the ever-practical traveler within as I run my hands over the pile of pillows- those down-filled-delights that epitomise impracticality- stacked in Target, “how would you take it with you when you move? It’s a hassle to carry with you when you go.”

But that’s the thing: I’m not sure I am going, at least not now, at least not soon. I have a house and a job, a degree and a car. I have someone who makes it worth the staying. For the first time in my life I’m considering shelves and calculating the cost of seven large boxes of books shipped media mail across the United States so I can reread them all over again. I’m planting things and building a pantry’s supply of spices. I’m tracking down a mattress, and considering putting at least two pillows on my bed. And while all of this feels like it should be unsettling and a touch scary, it really isn’t. 

Certainly I’m not always committed to this concept of commitment. Depending on the day, I am overwhelmed in a gulf of panic at the thought of losing my independence, my ceaseless desire to roam. It’s as if by purchasing pillows I am nailing my feet to the ground, never to explore again, and that simply isn’t so.

It takes a lot to relinquish the well-laid plans that took years of dreaming to formulate and grasp, exchanging them instead for the things that appear in front of you now. Sometimes we get so used to wanting something for so long that when we no longer want it, we feel we must still cling on, if only to justify the time and energy we’ve invested into the thought alone. To let go feels like admitting defeat. In cases such as these I think we often find it’s the tradition of the thing we can’t relinquish rather than the thing itself. Or at least this is what I’m discovering about myself. 

And so I am willingly facing the coming days and the commitments both large and small that they doubtless hold. There’s a certain power in staring down the unknown and shouting “I choose this” into its void. It’s a power the faith of which rests in an assurance that a greater plan is in place, and that the plan holds greater things than my little suitcase heart can fathom. And perhaps choosing to trust that plan starts by purchasing a few extra pillows.

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