“There are two questions that we have to ask ourselves. The 1st is ‘where am I going?’ and the 2nd is ‘who will go with me?’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order, you are in trouble.”
(Dr. Howard Thurman)
I fear that I am in trouble.
Like the perfectionist procrastinator too afraid of failure to even begin, the hometown hero who harbors secret wanderlust, the commitment-phobic romantic whose hesitance dooms him to forever remain alone, I desperately looked for an excuse not to write my Thurman Thoughts post about this quote, which slapped me across the face without warning and didn’t even bother to apologize.
I tried to ignore it at first, desperately flipping through Meditations of the Heart, wanting to write something uplifting or inspiring or hopeful. Instead, much like the marble-framed plaque that hangs in the lobby of the College of Communication (it reads “Be afraid to die until you have achieved some victory for humanity”) shames me into doing my homework each week, I keep hearing Dr. Thurman’s merciless words in my head. They won’t go away.
In a few weeks, I will graduate from college. I will put on a starchy scarlet gown and an ill-fitting mortarboard cap and weep profusely as platitudes are exchanged and tassels are flipped. Agganis Arena, where I have worshipped at the altar of the gods of sport for the better part of the past four years, will be transformed from a rink or court into a stage where someone will hand me a diploma worth a quarter of a million dollars. I will take pictures with friends and notes on speeches and appliances from the Goodwill bins in the basement of my building, and then I will be kicked out of that building and I will leave.
This I know.
This is what I do not know: what comes after.
This is what I do not have: answers.
Here is what I do have: a list on the back of my bedroom door of possible things I could do when I grow up; three different versions of a cover letter saved on my computer; a PDF of my resume that, were it a physical copy, would be crumpled and illegible for how many times I have digitally clutched it; and two or three succinct and politely-worded letters of rejection that I darkly chuckled at and promptly saved.
Here is the problem: I am in love, on both a macro- and a micro-scale, a trickle-down effect of affection that starts with this city as a whole and ends with the handful of men and women I hold closer to my heart than even the most stacked Uno hand (and if I only get one axiom, it is that I am a very aggressive Uno player). These gorgeous, brilliant, flawed, infuriating, stunning men and women have soared with me on my highest days and have held me while I shook, sobbing, on my lowest nights. Their passions, speech patterns, values, handwriting, fears, clothes, and families have intermingled so much with mine that in some ways, the people I love and I are almost literally inseperable.
I owe so much to Dr. Thurman, because without him and the Center that bears his name, I might not be here. I believe in heeding (or at least considering) older, wiser voices. I do not think he’s wrong. But I don’t want to listen to him.
For my twenty-first birthday, my father bought be a Wizard of Oz themed necklace. Its delicate silver chain, off of which dangle a pair of jewel-encrusted ruby slippers, is around my neck right now. It connects me to my childhood, my family, my home. It also, in relation to my current dilemma, makes me very angry.
Dorothy didn’t know she was going to be sent on a literal whirlwind trip to somewhere new, but her loved ones were never far away. She even got to take her dog! All I want right now is to have fabulous adventures and, when they are finished, be able to reflect upon them, including my undergraduate career, and remark to the people beside me, joyfully and incredulously, “You, and you, and you, and you were there!”
Is that really so troubling?