On May 12, 2017, I officially put a period at the end of a 21 year long sentence. I graduated from Clemson University with my Master of Arts in Communication, Technology, and Society. I’m not sure rightly sure how I feel about it. At once I am proud of myself for accomplishing my goals and somewhat dejected about no longer identifying as a student.
For the first time in the majority of my life, I will not be buying textbooks, back to school clothes and supplies, nor posting on various social media “back at it,” “another first day done,” or some other indicator that I’m back in school and the academic hustle has begun anew. August will not require me to share a “fun fact” with 15-22 strangers (I tell everyone I know Freaknik: The Musical by heart — and I do!). September will not bring tests I very lovingly call “the sacrificial exams” (because everyone has ONE they can bomb and still earn their “A”). No debating which class to skip for Homecoming festivities in October or taking an L for an earlier trip home for Thanksgiving. I won’t have to scribble frantic math into the corners of review sheets to calculate scores needed to maintain any GPA’s and will there be no silent crying in the library bathroom this December. I also will not feel the sweet release turning in that last paper. I am finally free. Free to do whatever I want to do. Whatever I want to do. This was an entirely new concept to me so what did I do? I went to the Georgia Aquarium.
I, a single African American young adult woman, drove to Atlanta and bought a ticket to see whales, manta-rays, giant grouper, and other marine life because I had graduated from the last leg of my academic career (at least for a very long while) and I deserved. I deserved to experience something different and exciting. I deserved to not have to think beyond the obvious and critically examine the majesty displayed before me. I deserved to do whatever I wanted to do. So naturally, I thought beyond the obvious and critically examined the majesty displayed before me because “reasons” (read: grad school). However, I must admit, I went on my aquatic adventure looking for answers.
Dear reader, I should let you know a digression is coming. I promise it will round back beautifully to the primary focus of this post. I’ve started doing a new thing in my life where I'm letting words use me instead of me using the words. I’m being brave enough to let messages within me find their way into life. Keep this in mind as I dive back into the meditation.
The words that want me to say them right now are that I knew I would spend my hour and a half inside this southeastern marine sanctuary working the wheels of my intelligence because that’s what I like to do. Being free to do whatever I want meant doing what I liked which is being deep in thought, making meaning, applying observation to practice. I knew if I stared into a living arena teeming with variety and color and narrative I would eventually not only find answers, I would find better questions to ask for the next time I wanted to test myself.
So what did the fish tell me? What did I learn from the sea mammals and cephalopods? They told me to calm down. That’s it. From watching them swim, float, wiggle, dive, and do that thing jellyfish do, I learned to just calm down and live my life. At each exhibit, every animal was going about their way and not a single one bumped into another, none seemed upset by the courses of others; everything was just fine. Maybe right now the currents are a bit choppy, but they’ll calm down. Sure, there might be a toddler tapping on your tank but their adult will remove them soon. Yes, there are literally tons of other fish (and sea mammals because we all know whales are heavy and have live births) around you, they're all doing their own thing and they are ok. The same is true for my land-lubbing life.
These were fairly simple revelations, but they were exactly what my unsure soul needed as I prepared to ride this new wave in life. These waters are uncharted to me. T’were my life an early earth illustration, cartographers would have drawn sea monsters in this space simply because they did not know what existed there and wanted to deter sailors from any potential danger.
But as I gazed into the vast blue scene, the newness became less daunting. Life is just about moving along. How you move is no better or worse than any other being. Everyone and everything is keeping their own course in the grand scheme. It all can be likened to an intricate dance, really, the way paths cross and diverge.
So here I am. Singing a sweet farewell to a very long period in my life as I sail into a new one. I, like Magellan (but without the mutiny in the Philippines), have set out into the potentially sea-monster infested waters. I have a general idea of how and where I am to go because of my reading, studying, partying, bathroom crying, and my various other achievements in these past two decades of schooling. I expect challenges as equally, if not more-so, than I do triumphs. The plan is to keep time with the tides and make sure to create my path and boldly go about my courses. Everything will be just fine. Also, I should probably learn how to swim.
Post Script: You, dear reader, have my deepest apologies for the nautical and oceanic puns and references. I simply could not help myself. I do hope you decide to join me again for another meditation. I cannot and will not promise this won’t happen again but they will be more so-fish-ticated.