So, Are You Excited for College?: Gap Year Week ?

Yes. No. Maybe? I don’t know. Sometimes. It depends on the day. Whether I had a good breakfast that morning, whether I had a chance to work out or not. Whether my next blog post is going well or whether it’s stuttered to a two-lined, abrupt halt in a Word document I haven’t opened in weeks. How much time I’ve had to think in the past week. If I’ve gone hiking or not. Which friends I’ve talked to.

I’ve had a year, you see, to run the gamut many times over, lapping a circuit of emotions until the ache grew tight through my hamstrings. The agony and the ecstasy. The midnight College Confidential binges and the social media following sprees. The America the beautiful and the oh-god-please-anywhere-but-there. (For that one, it’s always tended towards the latter.)

I write these posts partly to document but partly also to find out what I’m thinking about things. In the process of sentence construction and word choice, as I accumulate it all into paragraphs and watch the word counter tick steadily upwards, sometimes I stumble upon discoveries. If I pull something apart enough—my experiences, my beliefs, my reactions—I can find the rationalizations holding it all together. Bit by bit I can excavate arguments from the sediment of memory.

In case it’s not clear, I’m trying to do it now. Get this process to answer the question. Am I excited for college? Really?

Does it make sense to get excited for something I’ve always known a certainty? I’ve had the privilege to know that since I could first understand the concept of graduate education. This year slotted in neatly, extended the timeline, but didn’t change the inevitability of it. Did you know that in my last year of high school I considered, several times over, not taking a gap year at all? There was so much excitement around moving in to your dorm and choosing classes and a year felt so long to wait. I wanted to tell my parents it’s okay, forget it, I’ll just head off with everyone else, what’s the point of all this fuss for an extra year of holiday.

I still don’t know what the point of all this was. But I’m glad I took the year(-and-a-bit), for reasons that might take a while to understand. That’s not what this piece is about, though.

Perhaps inevitabilities are the only things worth getting excited for. They’re going to happen: why not anticipate them with joy? Why must the dependable become the mundane? Why am I asking so many questions? Why do I have to dissect everything? Can’t the fact of it be enough?

Just so you know: I am writing this, now, on the flight there. My window open and the ocean far below. Just so you know: here is the edge of the tumble. Here I am freefalling into becoming a bona fide adult. Here I cannot pretend things are far away any more.

Right now, all I can think of is that there’s so much still I want to write. Sentences and paragraphs, half-completed outlines, floating and hoping for completion. I wanted to have the time to write them. I wanted to have the space to write them. But heedless of that, this thing, these four years, this foreign country, is barrelling at me, now at 1000 kilometres an hour, the waves stripping away into the distance below. It’ll always be like that, though. The long list of things I haven’t done will always outweigh the things completed and will always include cleaning my desk. (Sorry, mom.)

I’ll have a new desk to mess up now. New things to fill it with. The list will only lengthen. There’ll be so many opportunities around me, some I’ll have to miss, some ripe for the working for, which might change the way I think, give me hope, or take it away, show me fresh directions, or point me with renewed confidence down old paths. And more possibilities, perhaps, that I haven’t yet thought of. Right now, all I can see going forward is one yawning shadow of unknown magnitude containing who-knows-what. It’ll fade as I move towards it, but only bit by bit. Right now, Singapore still only a few hours behind me, the goodbyes fresh in my lips and eyes, it’s easiest to cling to the bright things I know for certain. My home of ten years, my family, the routes I’ve worn rotten.

The first time I went to the US in sixth grade, I spent the weeks leading up to our departure dissecting not our itinerary, but rather our flight. I planned out how I’d move my watch forward gradually, every hour, to keep pace with where we were in the world. I carefully planned the books I’d read and the movies I’d watched. I asked my father, who’d flown that route before, incessant questions about what the plane was like. At one point my mother asked me in bemusement why the enthusiasm. It was just a flight, after all (and one I would, ultimately, spend miserable with flu, accumulating a snowy pile of used tissues around me). “It’s the only part of the trip I can actually imagine,” I’d replied without thinking.

Now, on another plane flight to the US, I think that still holds true for me. I can’t get excited about what I don’t know. And college, no matter how many times I mouse Google Street View in front of my dorm, is something I can hardly picture at all beyond the clichés. It’s what you make of it, everyone has told me, over and over. And so this four years: nothing but blank potentiality. I can’t get fully excited about it. Nor can I get scared. I have no idea what’s down the pipeline. Only predictions and hopes.

In my first blog post, I wrote And so begins the rest of my life. This is another beginning approaching. Another rest-of-my-life. Just over the still-dark horizon. A year to run the gamut of emotions about that, but sitting here I’m calm, not tense, not exuberant. Maybe all those laps have left me somewhere in the middle. Not quite anything. Only knowing that I’ve had the time to consider much more than I would have otherwise, the consequences, the implications. Time to examine and time to prepare, and time to do neither of those, too.

Sunrise will be in a few hours, I think, and will come cardinal-red and brilliant. Beyond that will come the landing and the grounding, at last. I don’t know what that will feel like. But I’m ready for it. I’m ready. I’m ready.

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