Tomorrow, I graduate from college. 16 years of school. 4 years of hard work, and sweat, and tears, and stress, and wanting to quit numerous times…
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky”
This is the end. I know it won’t hit me until autumn, when I should be buying school supplies, and ordering books. For the first time in 16 years, I won’t need to buy pencils, and notebooks, and backpacks.
“Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…”
Despite all of the bad, I loved school. I loved “being an English major.” I loved learning new things. I loved the race against time to get a project or a paper turned in.
“In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.”
Tonight was my last class. My favorite professor made my classmates clap for me multiple times, probably to make up for the fact that he can’t make it to graduation (and that he made me come to class from 6-8 on the night before graduation).
“There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,”
Tomorrow, I’ll walk across a stage (number 448 in the school of arts, humanities, and social sciences alone). This is the end.
“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”
On this, the eve of entering the “real world,” lines from my favorite poem keep running through my mind.
“And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?'”
There are things I’ve read in college that I probably would not have read otherwise. T.S. Eliot is a big one. I read Eliot in high school but wasn’t impressed. I remember studying “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and not understanding it (or just not caring).
“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”
In college? Eliot was enlightening. I read “Prufrock” again every couple months, and every single time I read it, I see something in myself that I need to work on. If I’d left high school and not gone on to pursue an English degree, I would probably never have read Eliot again. I would think a little differently than I do now, and I would be a little more passive. There are steps I wouldn’t have taken and chances I would’ve ignored.
“For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;”
“Prufrock” is all about passivity.
“I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?”
Passivity is a problem I see all around me. It’s a problem that is often attributed to my generation – to millennials. However, Eliot saw this same problem in his own generation, almost 100 years ago! He saw people letting life pass them by, rather than taking life by the horns. He saw people who measured out their lives in… coffee spoons? What a small and insignificant thing to measure your life by.
“And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.”
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” is a well-known line. I see it in cute little prints and coffee shop chalkboards, and I always smile to myself, because I know when Eliot wrote it, he meant it as a bad thing. This is why we should not take quotes out of context, people.
“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.”
In the poem, Eliot’s character, J. Alfred Prufrock becomes so passive, that he begins to question his ability to make even the smallest decisions. At the beginning of the poem, he’s alive. He’s even thinking about daring to do something as big as disturb the universe. At the end of the poem, he’s questioning whether he even dares to eat a peach.
“Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,”
One thing I learned in college is how to step out of my comfort zone. In college, I had to put myself out there if I wanted to meet anyone. Another way I jumped out of my comfort zone? Living abroad for over 5 months. I learned to conquer fears I didn’t even know I had.
“And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!”
Another thing I really struggled with during college was anxiety. College is all stress, all the time. The more stressed I became, the more anxious I became. There were times I was too afraid of the future to sleep. Thanks to Jesus, and thanks to my Mama encouraging me when I genuinely wanted to quit school, I overcame my anxiety.
“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”
As I leave school and enter the “real world,” I want to be unafraid of taking chances. I want to make good decisions without always second guessing myself. I want to follow my dreams of writing fiction and being published, and I want to continue to do everything I can for the Kingdom.
“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.”
Here’s to the class of 2016. Here’s to following our dreams without fear. Here’s to making our mark on the world!