Monday, January 5, 2015

"The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance."

^Alan Watts

I've intended to write this post on several different occasions over the last few months, but inevitably I always thought to myself, "I have time." And then suddenly I didn't have time, and here we are in the new year.

Now that I think about it, though, maybe this works better as the once-again-obligatory New Year's post. Seems like I just wrote the last one, if I'm honest and painfully cliche.

This new year is significantly different for me from any other new year I've ever seen, and there will never again be another one like it. I'm a brand-spanking-new college graduate, seeking out new possibilities and opportunities in a way I never have before.

A long time ago, deep in the throes of my teenage angst and hatred for public education, I came up with what is probably the best metaphor I'll ever create. (Not that there's really much competition on that front, but still.)

I determined that school is like a water slide. Hear me out--it's actually perfect.

We start school around 5 years old, taking the plunge down that long tube of the educational water slide, holding our parents' hands until the very last second. It starts out slow and easy. There are lots of instructions. We know what's coming next every single second.

From there, the slide guides us through twists and turns, up little hills and down bigger ones. As we go along, it gets harder, more intense, and--as we all seem to eventually find out--faster, faster, faster. Maybe it's scary. Maybe it's too fast. Maybe it's boring. Maybe we get comfortable. Maybe we don't. But the slide doesn't let go.

Every now and then the tube opens up, so that we can see the outside world. This is when we feel the most independent, when we think we know what life will be like when we're "adults;" this is our internships, our seasonal jobs, or our first time driving alone.

We get to college. The slide gets ever more intense. Maybe some people fall out here, and that's fine. It opens up more often, and we get more and more tastes of what it might be like to be outside in the so-called real world. We're relatively independent, but at the same time we begin to think that maybe the slide will never end. After all, we've been in it for roughly 75% of our lives and it's hard to imagine anything else. We still know that what's coming next is more of the slide.

And then, suddenly, it ends.

We're dumped out into a huge pool, blinking at the bright sun, gasping at the free, open air. The pool is teeming with people we don't know, who all came out of other water slides in the park in varying degrees of disarray and confusion.

What do we do once we get here? There are lots of options. We could stick around in the pool for a while. We could run out immediately, on to the next attraction in life's amusement park (Sorry, but the metaphor demanded more metaphor). We could take a little bit of time, thoroughly drying off and scouting out our options before moving on. We could even run right back and jump in the slide again.

The choice is ours. For the first time in our lives, there's no one there telling us what comes next.

So I sit here, mentally wading--slightly stunned--in the weird pool at the end of this long, long metaphorical water slide, thinking about how I never thought it would end and how so very strange it is that it finally has.

Welcome to 2015. Welcome to life.

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