Yesterday marked the four-year anniversary of my graduation from Florida State University.
I feel so many things simultaneously. Disbelief, pride, happiness, sadness, nostalgia. Always nostalgia.
Sometimes Tallahassee feels like it all happened yesterday. Other times it's as if it was nine lives ago.
Mostly it’s like it was a dream. Blurry at the edges, like I’m not able to discern between what's actually real and what, over the years, has been twisted into myth, more fiction than fact.
Honestly, does it even matter?
I’m not sure it does. All I have now are the memories from that period of my life, and for me that's enough. I wouldn't want to go back, but it took me an astonishingly (and embarrassingly) long time to realize this and move on. From the experiences, the town, the school. From my friends and my hedonistic life.
I switched that Garnet and Gold tassel from the right to the left side and just like that, my life was different.
I graduated on Saturday morning. Andrew’s ceremony was the night before. Which meant I was up late drinking in excess and had to pay the price, like many of my fellow borderline-alcoholic Seminole peers.
I sat in the uncomfortable folding chairs wearing the graduation gown over a white dress I’d bought from I-don’t-remember-where. The shoes were brown wedges from Charlotte Russe that Andrew picked out. I was not fashionable then (I'm still not), and I didn’t know how to dress myself (I still don’t).
I have no idea what happened to that dress, but the shoes are still in my closet. I wore them to my brother’s wedding last October.
Unfortunately my brother couldn’t make it to my graduation. Because four years ago, he was in China teaching English and dating a girl he’d met there. The girl he eventually married last October.
Four years is a lifetime.
The gown was hot, which was not particularly helping my beer-and-gin-and-whisky-fueled hangover.
I fidgeted with my cap and squirmed in my seat.
Mr. Zeigler continued reciting names like he did, and likely still does, for every single commencement ceremony. That is a lot of saliva.
I looked up at him on the stage reading all those names and thought about the two classes I took with him during my tenure as a Media / Comm. major. Dustin Hopkins was in one of them. He was always very polite and seemed humble. I wonder if getting picked in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Bills one week prior changed that.
He signed a four-year contract with them six days after graduation and eventually went on to kick for the Saints and currently, for the Redskins.
Four years is a lifetime.
More names. It was never-ending. I let out a whine and slid even further down in my seat. I was so slumped down that the top of my chair was starting to edge the back of the cap off of my head.
“I think it’s almost over,” the girl to my left said almost apologetically. She looked genuinely sorry for me. I must have looked worse than I felt. Which, as I remember it, was quite terrible.
When the final name had been called and it was all over, a few people threw their caps in the air, as we were strictly encouraged not to do. For the most part though, it was all very anticlimactic. And boring. And annoying.
Maybe it’s because we didn’t have a cool commencement speaker like Conan O’Brien or David Foster Wallace. Maybe it’s because I was dying a slow, dehydrated death. It’s anyone’s guess really.
I found my parents in the throngs of fellow graduates and their happy families, periodically having to duck out of pictures or maneuver around the small children that looked so out of place in Tallahassee. My folks treated me to lunch and took pictures around campus afterwards. And that was it. They left the next day and I celebrated Cinco de Mayo appropriating Mexican culture by day-drinking with The Boys and getting sloppy, as you do on Cinco de Mayo (or any other day for that matter) in Tally.
I was 22 and everything about my life was uncertain.
I didn’t know if Andrew and I would work or what the end of college meant for our relationship.
I didn’t have a lead for a job or my nonexistent career. I’d spent the last year and a half folding glittery t-shirts at Aeropostale for $8.00 an hour at the same mall I’d bought the brown wedges from.
I didn’t have a lease at the house I was living in, which meant I had the option to stay there. In Tallahassee. Indefinitely.
Graduation felt more like an ellipses than a period. I was done with undergrad, that much was certain, but not much else was.
I spent the summer continuing to fold shirts and interning at an advertising agency. With the help of a good friend I secured my first “big girl” job. Andrew and I said what we thought would be our final goodbyes and I drove away from Tallahassee one last time in my 2003 Mazda Protege, which I had affectionately nicknamed The Vessel of Death.
It was 2013 and “Thrift Shop” was number three on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the year The Boston Marathon experienced violence and tragedy, Fast & Furious 6 earned $789 million worldwide, and the year Paul Walker died.
I moved in with my cousin in Miami and began my new job. I got a new car, published poetry, visited my brother in Ohio, ran a half-marathon. In other words, life went on.
A lot has happened in four years. One friend is entering her last year of grad school to become a clinical therapist. Another got married, gave birth to her son, and moved to New Jersey; her brother is back in the states after years of backpacking and living all over Europe and China and Chile.
Both of my brothers got married.
The cousin that I lived with in Miami bought a house, got married, and adopted a dog.
I moved from Tallahassee to Miami and finally to Austin, Texas with Andrew, where I’ve lived in four different apartments in three years, including the studio on the East Side where I lived alone for the first time.
I visited Florida, Ohio, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, and Seattle, Washington. I went to Europe for the first time and next month I'll be back again to explore Italy, with Andrew.
I got a dog and a different job. I started freelancing. I saw Dave Chappelle drinking a Miller Lite while he was at the same club as me and I've watched more live music and eaten more tacos than I ever have in my life.
I've made new friends and a new life here, and now Austin feels more like home to me than anywhere else.
I wonder what my life will look like when I'm 30?
Four years is a lifetime, after all.
The echoes of my ancient past
Keep flooding into every pore
Like scattered seeds of sycamore
Suddenly I started wondering how I got here
Was it a matter of time?
"Timelines" - Motion City Soundtrack