I checked off the white and black grid boxes, before sliding the paper into the metal rectangular crate. Each day, I stood in the a la carte line, ordering the same thing. Weekday to weekday, the waxy grease paper stained my hands with the anxieties of college.
“That’s all you’re going to eat.”
“There’s no need to be stressed.”
“How are you?” “I’m doing fine, thank you.”
On pilot mode, I steered myself from one side of the campus with my eyes blurring past the trees and rain-slicked pavement. The metal door handle, the white staircase brick walls, the heat lamp above the pizza, the scuffed marks on my black boots, and the forced conversations. I dove headfirst into feeling like I had time for nothing at all. I swam inside the hours connecting two a.m. and seven a.m. which I calculated how much time I had left to write a paper. A paper whose words came out chalky in my mouth, and tasted like plaque build-up.
Pennsylvania’s fall felt like a heat lamp, whose ambiance left the skin lukewarm. By noon, I wore a light jacket. By three p.m., I clutched the jacket close to my abdomen and power-walked to the next building. By six p.m., my coat felt bulky against my tote bag, but at least the wind only whipped my face.
Senior year in college equals the amount of stress in an entire year crammed into a day. Perpetual tumbling, uneasy somersaulting, and haphazard sprints; I challenge myself in staying with the idea in mind I am graduating.
Yet, I feel as though someone has dropped me in the middle of the forest. They have left me with enough time to peel the blindfold away and recall faintly how the bumps in the road are familiar.
I learned, hadn’t I? My high school diploma in my back pocket, I had made it to college halfway across from where my credits began. The transcript states I started at community college and worked full-time. The transcript states that I transferred to well-to-do liberal art college. The grades fluctuated with the times. The resume changed as I navigated inside my anxieties about the future.
“What are you going to do after college?”
“I just hope you find someone nice.”
A friend, a coworker, my family, and my conscious all stood on my shoulders – as if God came down with a pen and paper wanting to know how much I wasted time.
It’s Thursday, the desk I sit in during Travel Writing has a gap between the floor under one peg. I awkwardly rock back and forth, creating offbeat counts when I press my pen to paper.
Today, I am living with myself and dismantling the fictitious dream I began at twelve.
9:12 pm. The dentist told me to stay away from sweets, and I’m sitting here chowing down on an oreo candy bar weighing my life options, in a dim lit room.