Column: So it goes

Column: So it goes

Today (if you picked up the newspaper on time) is the last day of classes this semester.

For me, and for many of you, it may the last day of classes ever. If you’re reading this after 11:35 a.m., I’m done, with just two tests and two final papers standing between me and TD Banknorth Garden.

I’m done. How strange.

My mind has gone into some sort of primal survival mode, triggered by absolute panic. It seems I have no plans after May 5. (Well, that’s not entirely true. I plan to spend May 6 drinking water by the gallon and wincing at sunlight and noise.) I am a creature of habit and structure, as much as I would like to fancy myself a free spirit, a laid-back soul. I make lists. I love lists, I need them, I could not function in society without them. I have written quick to-do lists when my mind is spinning with a thousand obligations, which have included – and I do not lie – “Make a to-do list.”

The survival technique I’m experiencing is a mental shutdown. Since I don’t know what to do with myself after the next few weeks have passed, I’ve lost the capacity to imagine such things. This is not to say I’m living as if the world will end sometime mid-May. I’m not running around kissing men I’ve been too shy to speak to or taking all those drugs that burn holes in your brain with hallucinations. Although that could be much better than stressing over finals.

I’ve shut myself into a cocoon of just-this-month; the world beyond is impossible to see. I’m like an armadillo. I’ve been scared by an oncoming pickup truck, here representing the future, and so I’ve rolled up into a nice little ball, the boundaries of which are safe.

The problem with the armadillo’s defense mechanism, I hear, is that its clamped shell isn’t much of a match for Firestone Tires. So it goes.

Metaphors from the animal kingdom aside, here I am, looking at a post-graduation life devoid a full-time job, a car and, as of May 31 or so, an apartment. People keep asking me about my plans. I say I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’ll be, and I gather from their vaguely frightened looks that there is a high-pitched note of hysteria in my voice.

But the thing about it is, I often bring the questions on myself. When people ask in general terms about my life or well-being, I immediately, ecstatically tell them about my pending graduation.

Then come the questions, but not necessarily answers. It’s an entirely unfair exchange. But the reason I so enthusiastically mention graduation is that I am really excited about it.

Sure, I have no plans. I don’t know what area of the country I’ll be in, what kind of newspaper or magazine I’ll be working for or how I’ll have the money to buy a car before I have a full-time job. For such a serial list-maker and planner, this is a problem.

But I realized, sometime after my April 1 panic attacks, that this is what I’ve always wanted. Complete freedom to go wherever I want. I have absolutely nothing to hold me in any one place. All my closest friends are leaving Boston – for Greece, Australia, Long Island – throughout the summer. I’m not married and have no kids. There are really no obligations. I admit there are loan payments and, you know, eating to think about, but I can take care of those anywhere in the country.

There’s also the little thing I always seem to forget: I’m young. When I turned 20, then 21, I remarked on how old I had become. But there’s so much time before I’m truly old. Even if I float around now and screw things up for the next five years, I’ll only be 26, and have my whole life ahead of me (barring freak accidents and disease).

And so I’m free.

With that, dear readers, goodbye. It’s been a good three semesters, subjecting 10,000 or so students and staff to my thoughts and crusades. I’d like to think we’ve had fun, you and me.

– Rachel Slajda can be reached at [email protected]

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