Graduation announcements have become an emotional ordeal during the past few months. When the first advertisements for mass-produced announcements arrived, I rebelled and my mother cringed.
Another ill-fated art project for the girl who can write, not draw or lay out anything.
I wanted to define the graduation announcement for myself. This would be no cheap plea for money, no decorous move, no. This would be me, deciding to share a slice of myself with the world.
I would get some fancy paper (whatever that means, it’s just thicker, right? You can get that from Walmart?), a nice pen and go to town. Since I was making about 20, they could each be personalized and creative.
Turns out, like with most things, my mother was correct. Fast forward a month and I’m sitting at my dining room table surrounded by felt tip pens that were too good to pass up, a pad of watercolor paper cut into more manageable pieces and a printer paper template that looked like a fifth grade birthday card.
Let’s back up a few days, when I chose the photos to use. In my head, I figured it would be cute to use a baby photo on the front where I was pretending to write my name but in reality grinning at the camera. How nostalgic.
The back page would feature a photo of me craning my neck to see out a window at what card readers could perceive as my opportunity and future. Poetic and nostalgic for me in the future, no?
So I cut the photos down to appropriate size, figured out the proper wording that wouldn’t make me sound too stuffy about the date and time of graduation and revealed the finished product to my roommate.
She conceded it was Very Me and went back to Skyping her best friend, who happens to live in Scotland.
I took a moment to contemplate my monster of a creation, and realized I had a mere 39 days until my life launched into a new chapter, one I planned to live — according to this graduation announcement — “traveling the world, writing and teaching English.”
It sounded like the life of someone I’d imagine wanting to be as a first grader. I’m sure as a kid with markers and a huge imagination, I’d mapped out this pipe dream of a future on lined paper to be tacked in the hallway as an example of penmanship.
Not going to lie, I let a few tears fall. I’m leaving behind a roommate who can also tolerate the messiness of the living room but won’t let me leave my hair in the shower drain. I’m leaving some of the best friends I’ve ever made, ones I’d bike two miles in the rain to visit after dark.
I’m leaving a campus so picturesque that I can place an over/under bet on the number of people who will take pictures of azaleas in the Quad while I read in my hammock, and it’s usually over. I’m leaving a town where I know which establishments won’t kick me out for being barefoot.
But then there’s 11-year-old me, writing a page about her projected 10 year plan for English class. She imagined I’d buy a VW van within the next year and drive around the country, teaching as I went.
I’m one-upping that dream, and I don’t even need to buy a car. By the end of this summer, I’ll have chosen a country where I will begin teaching English to fund the next move, to a place where I can hopefully teach English, and so on.
After another couple of clunky attempts at formatting the graduation announcement on the fancier paper (which I did buy at Walmart), I moved to the computer like my mother had suggested multiple times before.
I got caught up in fonts. Probably a residual memory of writing stories as an elementary schooler, when font was important for the presentation of a narrative. None of that Times New Roman for this rebel.
My roommate and my brother saved me within five minutes of each other. Now they’ve decided to mess around with my weird design and get back to me.
One of them lives in the same apartment, the other four states away.
That’s when I realized 11-year-old me was right. Worrying about distance and travel is unnecessary. Places are what you make of them, and when it’s time to go, it’s time to leave.
And that’s exactly what lies in wait 39 days from today. It’s time to go.