In one of Paul Gauguin’s paintings, he ponders the future of mankind: “Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?”
Six months ago, I graduated from Goucher. I walked across a stage and gave Sandy a hug that was forever immortalized, and then paparazzi-printed out everywhere, by my dad. Three days later, with my diploma in hand, I hopped in a plane to Salt Lake City with a sprained foot to work for an active travel company. Flew around Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, California, Chicago, Baltimore, DC, Philly, Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho.
I spent a lot of this summer falling asleep under the stars and looking up at the world around me and thinking that anything was possible. Sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon with friends and looking out at everything touched and shadowed by the moon. Climbing to the top of mountains and looking out over valleys and canyons and feeling connected to something larger than myself.
Now, I am perched here in my house-on-a-hill in Lyon, France, working as an English teaching assistant, dipping some bread into coffee, and thinking about tomorrow and the day after that and the hill I have to walk down and the applications I have to fill out. I’ve spent a lot of time here sitting on the banks of the Rhone pondering the all-too-human thoughts of, “Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?”
I guess that explains, somewhat, the bags under my eyes or the pimples that have magically appeared on my face or the two inches of split-ends trailing along at the end of my ponytail.
This real life, or whatever a life this is, can throw so many things at you. It’s life on crack, life on a speedometer going 500 revolutions per minute, life that flashes by. In our post-grad lives, sometimes my friends and I freak ourselves out by thinking about the many-splendored and spangled future, lie on sofas and console ourselves with pints of ice cream,drink one too many cocktails, force unpleasant thoughts to the back of our minds. Six months later, this life, this post-grad real adult freshman-year-of-life life, is still just as bewildering as ever. I haven’t figured out how to cure cancer or resolve climate change or master five other languages. Or how to navigate French bureaucracy or get rid of mice in an apartment or understand how to convey the English language to a group of French high schoolers.
But having a life of my own creation, a job, a place to live, friends, acquaintances, it feels richer almost, more real. It’s not forced or a facsimile. This life, this crazy, awesome, tiring, exhilarating, strange life, is something that I have crafted, more or less, on my own. While a part of me can very easily imagine moving back to my Dulaney apartment to drink some tea and watch New Girl with my roommates, my life and my future here, whatever they may be, seem limitless, expansive, awe-inducing.
So where do I see myself in five years? Good question. But recently my grandma sent me a quote from Dr. Seuss:
But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!”
So as someone once told me, “Be in the moment. And keep moving!” -John Caslin