I ran into a friend the other day in the library. She didn’t see me right away, but she recognized the now-worn peacock feather image stitched and painted onto my backpack and knew who in her life belongs to a rucksack so strangely adorned. Since last time she saw my backpack the peacock feather has been joined by lots of rips and scuffs and a large spot where I twitched in my sleep on an airplane and sent the fruit cocktail that was open for breakfast on the tray table in front of me spinning through the air in momentary cartoonish slow motion before spilling all over my things.
We got to chatting about the mission she’d just returned from, about what’s been happening in the lives of our mutual friends and about school. I asked her when she’s graduating and she gave me the sort of answer I’ve been giving other people for the majority of my collegiate experience: a vague smile with an edge of good-natured frustration around the eyes and a murmured someday.’
That elusive someday.’
I must say that every time I’ve answered that when are you graduating?’ question over the past few years a tiny part of me has felt stir crazy and tethered to this strange little town and my soul paces impatiently on its tiny platform like a tiger in a cage too small as I graciously say that I’ll graduate someday through gritted teeth. But now someday’ is April 25th of this year and the tiger stops pacing momentarily to decide if she should be terrified at the prospect of that cage door finally being opened and dealing with the responsibility of which direction to bolt and where the pent up energy in her legs would be best spent.
Now that my answer has changed somewhat to the requisite question, the follow-up questions too have changed. So what are you going to do after graduation?’ What am I doing once I get to the real world? It’s a strange notion to, in effect, say that my life to this point hasn’t been real.’ The friends I’ve made, the places I’ve been, the things I’ve learned, the boys that have beguiled me-it all seemed pretty real to me.
So, what’s the next real thing I’m going to do?
The Cheshire cat taught me long ago that if I don’t know where I want to get to, then it doesn’t matter what road I take. So, I suppose I must figure out where I want to end up. And that is the question that people get stuck on for years. I know the things that light a fire inside of me and that, I suppose, is where I must start. The opportunity to create something from nothing (only you’re never starting with nothing) is endlessly thrilling to me.
My mediums seem to have become film, the stage, and of course-the thing I couldn’t get away from even if I tried—the written word. But how does one even begin to pursue a path marked by such passionate ambiguities?
I once sat cross-legged at the base of a large strangler fig that was engulfing an ancient ruin on the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It was a place I had wanted to visit since I first read about in the National Geographic when I was just a small child (arguably I am still a small child). I had alighted from my journey around the complex to just rest and enjoy fruition for a moment when an Australian tourist came round the corner and immediately said, you must be Vishnu.’ A strange comment or a high compliment, since Vishnu is one of the Supreme Beings in Hindu religion.
One of the incarnations of Vishnu is Lord Krishna (have I lost you yet?), the deity that became a human child out of sport and when Yashoda asks to see inside his mouth to see whether he has swallowed mud like the other children say he has, she sees the whole universe inside of him. That Australian tourist might have been in the sun too long or he may have been surprisingly astute. While I would never claim to be a Hindu deity, I feel like I have the whole universe inside of me. I feel capable of anything and it’s feeling capable of anything that’s got me stuck on what path to choose.
I don’t know yet the exact particulars of what I am doing after graduation, although lucky for me, people in our society usually ask the question like they ask how you are, really expecting more of a fine’ than an in-depth analysis of the psychological ins and outs of your current state.
I do know that I want to create things, I want to tell stories and enlighten myself and the people around me and I want to produce art that makes people cry and laugh and gasp and hold on more tightly to one another. I feel like this tiger’s legs have sinews and muscles that were built to be used and so I’ve no choice, but to go and use them. I want to keep my finger on the pulse of the world and live the sort of life that will make that pulse race, if only for an instant.
The end of what felt like an endless stage of my life is drawing nearer. I’m graduating April 25 and what comes after? Everything.