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What are we *now*?

By Billy | April 29, 2010

I am wrapping up my last real semester in college in the next 7 days, and I’m experiencing a variety of extremely interesting feelings.  The intention of this post is simultaneously to remind my fingers how to type, as I am not quite finished yet, as well as to convey to the people I love how I’m feeling.  Furthermore, I’ve been told I am unusually aware of how I feel about things, and fairly articulate at expressing it, so perhaps other people feel this way about similar shifts.  Maybe someone, somehow, will find this and feel like a single sentence in it resonates with them.  Maybe that’s what they need to read.  I trust the universe will guide them here if they need.

In the coming weeks I will put on a graduation gown and walk with hundreds of people who have walked on this earth in their current physical manifestation for about as long as I have.  We will take pictures of ourselves places that we don’t actually spend time.  We will smile and shake hands and hug, often expressing feelings towards people we haven’t connected with, sometimes purposefully, for years.  We will say good bye to people we’ve seen on a weekly, even daily basis, and never see them again.

In the coming weeks, everything that has been a “given” for me and most people growing up in my culture will come to a culmination.  I don’t know what my first words were, but my first sentence was likely to be, “yes, I know, dad, I’m paying for my own college.”  I was lucky enough to have parents who know how to healthily pressure me; furthermore, I was graced with parents who knew what too much pressure was.  However much my parents might wanted me to have reached one goal or another, even the magical Eagle Scout award, which is on par with enlightenment in my family, I never felt like anyone was trying to live vicariously through me.  I never had to major in a certain field, nor had I the pressure to follow a certain profession.  In fact, I was encouraged to choose a degree that would open to me as many options as possible.

Thus, college was part of my personal culture.  The thought to finish high-school then start working immediately never crossed my mind.  College was always part of my plan, even before it was mine.

Where do I go now?

Where do I go now?

There is a direction to travel here.  I’m positive of it.  Everything I have learned in school tells me that I will be alright with the next step of my life.  Every Indiana Jones movie tells me to trust that instinct.  I’m doing, not trying, Yoda, I swear.   It’s just scary putting your foot out onto that invisible bridge.

In the next couple of weeks, I will be…  Let me rephrase.  In the next couple of weeks I will earn a degree in Religious Studies.  (I will be… a religiologist?)

This is not a blog post about the worries of graduating with a liberal arts degree, it is about the worries of finishing the projected timeline in general.  More to come on society not caring about actually important stuff.  Another post, another day.

In a few conversations I have had with people recently, I’ve accidentally slipped the words, “getting married” in instead of “graduating.”  I think they fall under the same category for me.  They are life changing events, hugely superficial in my book, and they usually only happen once.  Afterwards is a huge mystery.  This. Changes. Everything.

No more unlimited food, no more excuses for joblessness, no more sleeping, eating, playing, living, working, being ALL IN THE SAME PLACE.   No more anchor.  There is a saying in the Midrash about the Sabbath:  We practice the Sabbath as if it were experiencing eternity for a day, because we wouldn’t know what to do with eternity when we got there, otherwise.

We thrive well in constraints.  That’s why we keep busy.  That’s why we get antsy.  That’s why we own TV’s, computers, and cell phones.  Nobody knows what it’s like to be alone, slowed down, or free anymore, and it’s terrifying.  The next couple weeks are the opportunity for me and my graduating class to stare the infinite possibility of the world in the face, and we will all more than likely choose restraint over infinite freedom.

We will choose the path of convenience in this world, over the path of happiness.  We will choose the societally constructed constraints rather than the ones we feel appropriate.  We will wear high heels if our societally constructed gender roles approve of it, and we will wear ties if we have the alternative sexual binary.  We do not want the infinite, we don’t know what to do with Him.  We want the pavement, the organic food sticker, and the hot water steaming on its way out the faucet.

It’s graduation day soon.  Be prepared to ask every graduate you know what they are going to do next.  That is exactly what they want and should be thinking about.  It’s also the most generous question you can ask them, they surely want to tell everyone they invited to their party.  It will make them feel like you care when you ask such generic questions, and they will know you are asking for their sake.

Whatever you do, don’t just be silent around us.  We can’t stand stillness.  We can’t stand awkward smiles.  We don’t like encouraging hugs.

Some of us do.

Some of us like stillness and silence.  We like to breathe when we accomplish something we didn’t think we could.  We like to focus on the present moment, not consistently look to the years ahead.

Some of us will throw socially constructed views of success out the window in lieu of joining a Buddhist monastery, riding a llama across the continent, settling down as a stay-at-home-parent, joining an ecumenical community in France, living on an commune, joining an anarchist-leaning intentional-community, choosing to live without a home and write poetry in a big city, dedicate ourselves to silence and fasting, move to the slums of India…

Some of us will find our lives among the destitute, the homeless, and the religious fanatics easier to swallow than you will.  Some of us will be bothered by that and encouraged to stay because of it.

Some of us will seek a middle ground between asceticism and corporate America.  Some of us might find it.

These are the thoughts running through our heads, whether we know it or not.  We are looking for support and options and hope.  Sometimes we compromise one or two of those for another.

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