A little over 24 hours after my plane touched down in Missouri, bringing me back from winter break for my last semester of college, and I was sitting across from a close friend at the Panera Bread in the mall. We’d opted for this one because the downtown location had closed, taking with it at least a year of my regular trips for a bagel or cup of tea or a Fuji Apple Chicken Salad and reminding me that sometimes change just happens.
My friend and I spent at least an hour talking over plates that quickly turned empty, our minds wandering a little bit of everywhere: what we did over winter break, whether said break was in fact restful, past classes we’d taken, classes we planned to take, thoughts about our time in journalism school, what our priorities and plans are for the next semester.
Our conversation turned toward the realization that this is our last semester of college before we’re catapulted into the real world, when we finally get out of the proverbial boat and swim and my elaborate metaphor comparing journalism school to swimming lessons finally breaks down. We both admitted to the possibility of being emotional wrecks in the next four months, and we talked about figuring out how to prioritize our time with having to find jobs, finish school and spend time with the people we’ve spent the last few years with.
I admitted that my emotional state could vary depending on whether my cognitive realizations can catch up with my subconscious. I’d spent three and a half weeks back home feeling restless for seemingly no particular reason, until I had a breakdown during my dad’s post-college financial stability talk and finally realized that though part of me realizes that I’m graduating in May, I haven’t reached the point where my mind can admit that to itself.
I figured that if I can talk myself into believing that this is, in fact, zero hour, then I’ll probably spend more of this semester than I’d like feeling sad. If I can keep this fact hidden from myself, I’ll probably have to fight against the irritability of suppressed anxiety.
We talked about leaving in a few short months, collectively admitting that despite our jokes about jumping into a car and heading out into the real world as soon as we walk across the stage, we’re going to miss this place.
Because I’ve realized that in spite of everything that’s happened in the last few years, or perhaps because of it, this place became home.