| March 27, 2014 | 5 Comments

“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.

At least I get more warning about graduation than I would a tornado. || via Wikimedia Commons

At least I get more warning about graduation than I would a tornado. | via Wikimedia Commons

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?

featured image credit: mikeyashworth via photopin cc

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Category: Boston, Campus Culture, featured, Thurman Thoughts

Rhiannon Pabich

About the Author ()

Rhiannon was once asked to write a "bland, professional bio" and she failed miserably. She is, however, good at some things, which include yelling in hockey arenas, explaining the importance of comprehensive sex ed, and pursuing adventures. The journalism major hails from the deep south and, on a good day, enjoys scintillating conversation and copious amounts of caffeine. On a bad day, she enjoys sarcasm-laden conversation and obscene amounts of caffeine (but really, isn't every day a good one?). She likes playing with paint, crying happy tears, red balloons, and you.

Comments (5)

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  1. Mackenzie Morgan Mackenzie Morgan says:

    Rhiannon, I can’t believe last time I came here I completely forgot my main reason for commenting.

    “tLike 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 ADORE this combination of words Rhiannon. I read them three times over when I first read this post and I really like the ringing they leave in my head…thanks for that.

  2. Tino Bratbo says:

    For the record, Thurman isn’t always right.

  3. Jeff Fox says:

    You’ve written a lot of good posts on this blog, but I might say that this one is my favorite. It helps that I’m also staring down the rest of my life right now. You and I are in a similar boat: I know a lot of good people here, the kind of humans that give me faith in humanity. I know that I’ll miss having them nearby once I’m done. And yet, I also know that once I decide where I’m going, I won’t have to look hard to find people also going my way. The group will be smaller, like Neal said, but of the same quality. And I think I can manage that.

  4. Mackenzie Morgan Mackenzie Morgan says:

    Rhiannon, your posts are of course always tremendous but this one called out to me more than normal. When I first read that Howard Thurman quote, I smiled–I may have even grinned–because it made me feel as though Howard Thurman was confirming that I am actually doing something correctly, something I should be proud of and continue doing with the hope and belief that it will lead me to success and happiness. Independence is one of my most touted beliefs and I unfaltering believe in the importance of it. The way I read this quote is not so much that you should have to leave your loved ones behind or go off on your own, but that you shouldn’t make decisions about what you want to do and where you want to go based on what other people are doing, much like a leader/follower situation.
    In my mind, if we base our “where am I going”‘s off of our “who will go with me”‘s we will end up resenting those people for dragging us to a destiny we didn’t desire or stopping us from chasing out dreams. However, if we focus on the “where am I going”‘s I think we will often find that the people who come with us are the exactly the people we want to be with because they are the people that want to go the same places as us, they are the people we have common ground and shared interests with or they are the people that will go with us regardless of where it is we choose to go.
    Although, I guess there is also the possibility that if you are with the right people, it doesn’t matter where you are/what you’re doing. I do think that in reality though, the people we want to go with and the places we want to go have a lot of overlap and that overlap is where our best and happiest moments occur.

  5. Neal Moawed says:

    This is a hard thing. What they don’t tell you when you graduate is that, if you see any of your friends from college once a month you are a lucky one. It’s heartbreaking, especially if you leave the city of Boston and don’t go to some select locations and you are isolated. The struggle is to re-define your successes and failures and to celebrate them with a much much smaller pool of people than our generation is used to.

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