“Oh! ‘darkly, deeply, beautifully blue,’
As some one somewhere sings about the sky.”
Look, I fought against it. I didn’t want to get all emotional on you again. But I can’t hide it from you; I want to give you my life, and this week, it’s been one dramatic emotion after another. I blame the sky. It’s been awful dramatic itself in the past days.
It’s this week. There are so many reasons to stop and feel, you know? We’ve been walking these sidewalks for all these months, and let me tell you, when you’re halfway to Spring Break, the days in those classrooms seem to stretch endlessly like the gray expanse above you. I’m a feeler. I’m in touch with my emotions and yada yada yada. So walking these sidewalks, sitting on these steps, knowing that soon, it will all be different—these things fill me up with those different waves of energy that spin you around until you’re not sure exactly where you are. But just as it happens, because this is the way life goes, you work out your wings and ride the wind. People say stuff about that to the tune of “Everything changes.”
My melodrama kicks in high gear, too, when I have to say goodbye. I always find it extraordinarily odd to walk through the last days with people you’re so used to having a part of your days. In the next week, they’ll start to depart, but right now, they’re here, and try as I might, I can’t make this any sweeter. I’ve sat in the production room at work with Kristen for hours while we frantically pounded out articles and blurbs and now I feel this sense of urgency to talk more, to take advantage of her ballet bun popping around the office, giggling at my stories and nodding in acceptance when I admit that I hide the Reese’s cups in my desk. I’ve gotten latte after Monday-morning latte with Caitlyn while we recapped our weekends and shared the burdens of deadlines and due dates and really, is that bald man staring at us right now? I’ve spent all my social minutes at church huddled to the side with Michelle, sharing plans and dreams. I’ve wandered into Joanna’s and Gracie’s rooms to say hello, or to borrow that yellow skirt, or to find refuge. For three whole months, their rooms will sparkle cleanly; their beds will exude loneliness; their food shelves will boast one stale granola bar and a bag of popcorn. And still, I’m grasping, trying to hold on to the moments we do have, wonderful in their own right, but I can’t seem to squeeze out the extra appreciation I feel I should. Let’s break for clouds, aye?
Anyway, you can try to tell me you’re not feeling it, but I see it on the faces passing on the sidewalks. It varies: “Not yet!” “I’m so ready I could kick this squirrel.” “When did this happen?” “I’ve still got three more years.” (I’ve been there. That’s dangerous thinking.) Still, it’s been all over our apartment, dancing through the office, on the faces of old friends you meet in hallways: “Don’t leave without saying goodbye to me. Please.” The truth is, of course, that this is the cycle of life; it’s the cycle of school years, coming and going, and it’s the way it works in real life: Everything changes; we know this. But don’t go without saying goodbye.
And just in case we Tuscaloosians needed a reminder that at any moment life is ready to send you spinning, Friday marks the first anniversary of the day that changed everything. We’re looking around at each other with eyes that ask, “You remember, don’t you?” You can feel it blowing all over town, traces of panic and darkness and brokenness in the wind. And yet, there is so much hope. Watching people go is a heart-smooshing reality. Dashing headfirst into a new season, even if it is summer, is a scary jump. But the promise is that there will be a new thing.
“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.” —Isaiah 43:19
And well, I’m emotional for other reasons. Quite unfortunately, I had a near-death experience with my cup of Chick-Fil-A half unsweet tea/half lemonade and I’m here to proclaim that one must drink acidity, however delicious, with caution, or one’s lungs will pay the price. Wisdom, people. I told a half-hour narrative on the phone with my mom today, and she responded, “Well, that’s a little bit dramatic.” Perspective, pals. This week has been full of it, looking back and around and forward. I can’t help but get a little emotional thinking about it.
And here we are, on the cusp of summer, whatever that might hold. Here we are, on top of the one-year benchmark, reliving memories we can’t escape of an experience we must own. Here we are, savoring last days and giving goodbyes, tearing up and holding on. Here we are, walking boldly into what’s ahead, a new thing. Here we are, a little emotional. I blame the sky.