A Back to School Entry

Right now my computer is nestled on an improvised little cooling pack I constructed from the hotel ice machine so that it won’t overheat. This is not a joke. I really want to write to you. Tomorrow morning I move in for my last year of college. I’m nervous—I didn’t think I would be, but I am.

Coming back to school after summer always seems a little unreal. Three months is just long enough that college has stopped feeling like a concrete part of my everyday life and become just a story I’ve been telling myself for a while—something to entertain me on slow days. Yet it’s a story I’m about to be thrown into. A story about a little apartment, and two final semesters full up with eighteen credits each, and stacks of pretty old plates bought from Goodwill, and a novel waiting to be written, and baking on a Sunday, and Latin to be learned, and Fam Pan pot luck dinners, and looking for a big-girl job, and a magazine of which, for some funny reason that I can’t remember, I’m going to be editor. Though I’m an hour south of its beginning, I still don’t quite believe it. It all feels so foreign.

But sometimes I do believe it—that I am going back tomorrow to places and people in which my own tears and joys have worn hollows. And then I am scared.

In seventh grade I went to a new school, a school that was not Caldwell. I cried the whole first day. They did not know what to do with me so they bumped me from one classroom to another.  I sat in the back of each by the little row of computers till the teacher tired of me, and my contemporaries craned round at me and asked curiously “What you cryin’ for?”  (For them, of course, it was simply the first day of school, not the end of the world as they knew it.) The second day, I was so frightened to go back that I threw up. My dad made me go anyway, and I made a friend.

A year ago, I was waiting to move into, not a new school, but a one which had already been mine for two years. I was as scared as my seventh grade self, though I handled the fear a little better, I think. I didn’t throw up, but I sat up for most of the night and read The Man Who Was Thursday in its entirety. I’m fairly certain I sobbed through the last couple chapters. After move-in, I was generally happy, but it took the anxiety weeks, maybe months, to wear away. (I don’t remember. I keep close track of many things, but not of that.)

As for tomorrow and this week and this year, what I am afraid of are the lurking disappointments, the weeks I cannot carry, the nights I cannot sleep. I am afraid because tomorrow, when senior year begins at last, it will no longer be my own pet fairy tale—Someone else will be telling it.

But then, He told seventh grade, and He didn’t do too poor a job. I made several close friends and we had long involved sleepovers. I learned nothing of academic value. I made up a secret language. I got my first dramatic haircut. I was beaten to death in a class skit about slavery. I was the star of the seventh grade cello section. My skin got a little thicker. I learned to loathe busy work. My fashion sense hit an all-time low involving oversized hoodies and ripped jeans. I made a couple cool dioramas. I was happy in a place in which I’d planned to be miserable.

He told last year too and I started winning at game night. I wrote a story I really liked. I watched in awe as friendships healed. I gave a paper at the Herbert conference. I went through a brief and unenthusiastic running phase. I fell in love with my classical ed class. I learned a little more about grace. Sarah and I made a “Things Done” list. I received my weight in Wall Street Journals and built a somewhat successful table from them. Dr. Messer asked me if I’d be senior editor of The Quad. I cleaned Dr. Brown’s house. I performed a scene in Shakespeare class while on the verge of fatigue and was told that I portrayed Imogen with a “kind of frail madness.” My God gave me so much beyond my desserts.

He will tell this year too. I don’t know what turns it will take, and I’m sure the denouement is beyond my comprehension, but if I wait upon Him He will renew my strength. He will walk with me. He will grow my fear to awe. He will show me Himself.

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