These are the days of our lives. ("Dogs of our wives," as my dad used to say disparagingly when the soap theme crawled through our kitchen after the Noon Show. I don't miss having a TV.)
My roommate is asleep in the room next to mine. My friend Alex is asleep in the guest room. Regina Spektor is singing for me as I start to pack all this junk into my 2.5 suitcases, which somehow all came in under the 50-pounds-each limit last year but could hardly do that now due to the sheer volume of scarves. And I still have to do laundry. Why do Post-Its multiply like rabbits under my care? Is this Norwegian phrasebook going to be of any use? There's the pile of stuff I have to send to friends but never do because the post office still intimidates me. Mom's gonna Skype with me later, and I'm going to tell her which clothes, which shoes to bring when she visits later this month, and my goodness, where did I get all this stuff?!
I graduated from high school ten years ago, the only one in my class of five who wept all of May 2002 away, afraid to leave North Dakota while they were all vowing to get out as soon as they can. I think I'm the only one who attended an out-of-state college, and I'm definitely the only one outside of a two-state region, which doesn't really tell you much except that our plans often end up fooling us.
I cried for a full night when high school ended, and during Christmas break of my freshman year, I cried again that I couldn't go back because nothing was the same, I didn't know anyone, college was nothing like home. Then, what do you know, four years later, I cried in the back of a van because Roseville was home and North Dakota was home and I didn't know how to make it all fit. I cried as Minot shrunk in my plane window, and I'll cry in a year when Camarma does the same. I don't intend to cry now as I shove all this junk into my suitcases, though, because I'm not going to miss my moldy shower in the dark little cave that is our house, or my barely-a-mattress mattress, or the parties that the neighborhood cats throw in the backyard. I am moving across town to a house that is cleaner and cheaper, so even though stories about my living arrangements will no longer be as exciting as they've been here, I also will not miss the bird/bat that sits above my door at night and flutters toward my head when I put the key in the lock.
Our kids graduated on Friday, six days before my friends arrive from the States, twenty-two days before I see my parents again, one month and fifteen days before Caitlin and I attempt a backpacking extravaganza. It's already next summer, the thing we spent all of last summer talking about: Next summer, we'll travel. Next summer, we'll know how to plan for school. Next summer, I'll have shoes that fit. I don't know that it looks like I thought it would look, but--again with the plans. Alex and I walked all over Toledo until our legs were crying, stayed up late until we were crying from laughter over stupid things on facebook. I wouldn't even have known Alex unless I'd moved back to North Dakota, and the girls that are coming on Thursday--some of my favorites--I wouldn't have known, either.
The seniors and their ECA diplomas are spreading out across the States and Spain, and I hope it doesn't take them ten years to figure out that things always change and you cry, but as long as you keep stepping forward, more life will be waiting ahead. Half the time, you won't recognize it; you were expecting something bigger and shinier maybe. But then you'll be packing a suitcase with all the stuff you've accumulated somehow with the money you've earned somewhere to meet the friends you've met everywhere. It won't ever fit completely in the suitcase. Still, life will make room for all these memories, pieces of paper, people. Somehow, your heart will peel open to hold as much as it can if you're not too afraid of tearing that you keep it closed tightly. It will fit.