So Columbia is done. What we have left now is the career fair, and the final party, and we are scattered across the city on couches and in the beds of friends of friends. At the moment, we’re homeless and we’re unemployed. We don’t get to hide behind the vague guise of “student” on our applications and forms anymore. We are a little bit lost.
And yet right now I feel overtaken. It’s only been six weeks, yet it’s been SIX WHOLE WEEKS JESUS CHRIST. Six weeks of lectures that made me lean forward in my uncomfortable plastic chair until I thought I might tip over, six weeks of (predominately beige) meals with people who could now be some of my closest, six weeks of making things and being wrong and enough 50 Shades of Grey references to fill an entire 50 Shades of Grey prequel.
I used to have this feeling when I went to camp, when I went on trips as a singer in high school- Ireland, the French Alps, even that weekend we just went to Gloucester and took pictures by the tidepools. Time would pass in dollops and I would think hey, how lucky am I to be able to feel the world move in this way. What a privilege to be able to love where I am and what I’m doing.
I’m grateful, and I am relieved, that I still have this capacity. I’m not jaded or cynical but in a big way I’d thought that I’d used up my fair share of wonder. After leaving Vassar, after a year and a half single and finding no job and Marina, I’d thought that my experience in the Real World would be characterized by hardness. That was what it meant to be a real live grownup, I thought, to be knocked down and to thicken your shell and to take what you were given. And maybe that’s still the case. But CPC has humbled me and opened me. It’s made me firmly, truly realize that words are the thing that I am good at, the place where I would like to be, and that I’m more than willing to put in the time and the effort to build this kind of life for myself. Even if that means staying in an overly air-conditioned lecture hall until three a.m. for a week straight, “collating.”
There is something elemental about how the course is run: three times a day, five days a week, you sit down and you are told stories. They come from the people who know best, who have been around for so long and worn so many hats (a favorite expression [second only to “a finger in every pie,” and like, gross]) that it’s second nature to talk about these places and these things that loom legendary in your mind. Hearing stories about producing stories clearly feeds the part of me that’s addicted to meta, but more importantly it situates me in a sprawling, solid context. I still don’t know much but now I feel like I can look back and look around and start to look forward, and to see where I fit too.
I fall easily. For places, for activities, for boys with sharp eyes and friends with loud laughs and bars that close later than the others. But being here has honed my ability to discern. It’s allowed me to hear somebody speak and to take what inspiration and advice I can, without feeling the need to follow their path or emulate them exactly. I can listen to literary agents and children’s book editors and be floored by their passion, their knowledge and their abiding senses of wonder, and then take that and apply it to my own growing idea of myself and what I’d like to be. Before now I’d been a little unconscious in this respect; you hear about something great, you see something you kind of sort of want, so you lurch toward it because you need direction. You need to want.
I’m learning to want with thought and with grace. I’m learning to recognize what I don’t know and to revel in it. To see it as boundless opportunity for growth. I tell everyone in earshot about this, but last year my best friend took a Romantic Poetry class and learned about aporia, the point at which we know what we do not know. I love that. I want to make it part of me. And to quote another girl, another woman, whose words will stay with me for the rest of my life: let’s make something happen to this world.
Preach. And thanks, Columbia, for being the thing and the place and the people that’s helped remind me of what this world can be. I can’t wait to see what we do.