This summer has been strange thus far – working on campus, strolling along the same sidewalks and past the same buildings with which I’ve grown so familiar over the last four years. But this time around, things are different. As I watch throngs of overwhelmed, yet very excited freshmen and their families pass me each day, thoughts of their glistening futures in Aggieland bring bittersweet tears to my eyes.
Weaving my way between innumerable oscillating bodies, I make a point to smile at the girl who walks very slowly, eyes so aptly scanning her surroundings while avoiding the gaze of her peers. She is timid, painfully self-aware and consciously unassertive, doing her best to blend into crowds around campus like a melancholic chameleon. But she captures my attention nonetheless.
Four years ago, that was me, thrust all alone into a rural concrete jungle alongside thousands of other kids, all of us trying to “find ourselves” outside of our previous comfort zones while making good grades, finding new friends, and somehow staying alive. I was unprepared, I was naive, I was floundering my way through the uncharted highs and lows of collegiate life amidst blood and sweat and plenty of tears. But a month ago I walked across a sprawling stage, diploma in hand, and turned my ring to face the world awaiting me when I emerged from Reed Arena one last time, the same girl once here for 2013’s Commencement yet still indescribably different. A lifelong dream had finally come true.
So much of who I am today I owe to this place… each time four years’ worth of priceless memories comes flooding back all at once, I feel as though my heart will burst. Nostalgia has a way of rendering our pasts far more brilliant, disguising life’s interspersed shadows and causing the flickering flame of the present to glow strangely dim in comparison. Being a student wasn’t all fun and games, that’s for sure, between the relentless stress and shoestring budgets and panicked phone calls to my parents on a biweekly basis, but there’s truly a Spirit can ne’er be told at Texas A&M and I wouldn’t trade my experiences here for the world. Although my days on this campus are drawing to a close, I trust the Aggie Spirit will be kept safe in the hands and hearts of the next generation.
For the next eight weeks, my goals are simple: soak up every last second I’m able to spend in the Brazos Valley, whatever they might bring. Appreciate what I’m tempted to overlook as ordinary blessings. Pause, spin around, take it all in, this life in thrilling technicolor, because today will soon be just another story. My friends and I might mourn the loss of familiar faces and long for another late night on the porch of the Chicken, but how lucky we are to have lived and loved and learned so much in this small town. Meanwhile our stories have just begun as we wave goodbye and blazon separate trails in the glorious unknown.
If I’m honest, I’m a little scared of what’s next. Once again, I’ve been called outside my comfort zone to create a new life in a place unfamiliar. Once again, I feel unprepared, naive, and overwhelmed by the prospect of starting from scratch, all alone. Perhaps I have grown and matured since my last grand adventure, but “adulthood” still seems a rather elusive light at the end of a very long tunnel. Like Prince Caspian contemplating his impending coronation, I am daily humbled and daunted by my upcoming move abroad, along with everything these next two years might entail.
“’Welcome, Prince,’ said Aslan. ‘Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?’
‘I – I don’t think I do, Sir,’ said Caspian. ‘I am only a kid.’
‘Good,’ said Aslan. ‘If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.” (C.S. Lewis,
The Lion’s wise and measured words never fail to assuage my anxious heart. “If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.” By nature, I’m a perfectionist, a careful planner, a girl who likes to dot every i and cross every t and neatly arrange my future life on an exhaustive twenty-year timeline. Sometimes this provides some small sense of comfort, a semblance of order and control amidst constant uncertainty and chaos, but more often than not my frantic efforts prove futile.
Why? We can’t possibly contain the uncertainties of tomorrow inside Pandora’s Box, and we will rarely feel “ready” to face that which we cannot fully anticipate. But then again omniscience and omnipotence are not required of mere mortals – where we find ourselves too weak or incompetent, Another’s strength and providence illuminate our path and enable us, against all odds, to press on.
In the end, only my thoughts, words, and deeds are up to me, each of which rests in the here and now. What’s past is irrevocable and the future is uncertain, but nothing ever happens if I allow “what if” to defeat me before I’ve even begun.
Some days I feel like I’m learning to walk all over again, sticking each unsteady foot in front of the other while hoping I’ll find the floor underneath more forgiving after each consecutive fall. Yet, despite my tender bruises and lingering trepidation, all I can do is take the next step in faith, knowing if I waver I’ll be born up on wings like eagles to meet whatever lies ahead.