The day didn’t feel particularly momentous. Sure, mimosas flowed, a flask was shared pre-ceremony and leis were flown in from Hawaii–but it was a day of going through the motions. The social expectation of it all seemed to dictate the course of the day. College Graduation.
First there was the feverish donning of the cap and the gown. Then there was the ceremony, posing for pictures, and an expensive brunch downtown. Post Salmon Benedict (my father gave me permission to order the most expensive item on the menu), we celebrated with extended family in the backyard of a rented house in West Seattle. The summer that followed graduation was both magical and uncertain.
I spent a few blissful weeks in my college apartment ignoring the reality of my impending unemployment. I was winding down a successful internship with a dozen solid writing samples in my back pocket (in lieu of a paycheck) and I had naively put in my two weeks at my hotel job, adamant that at any given moment a job offer would land itself in my inbox. Imagine my dismay when the first round of applications (five or so meticulously crafted cover letters and resumes) sent to a variety of publishing house and PR agencies resulted in resounding silence.
Cue, the uncertainty. A smattering of part time jobs, unpaid internships and a liberal arts degree that promised nothing more than having penned a large amount of succinct essays, led me to this: I knew I was qualified to do something. That something however, was TBD. I had narrowed my career aspirations down to a handful, with each being a slight enough departure from the previous that when voiced aloud not only led to several clarifying questions, but also sounded mildly schizophrenic.
But this brand of uncertainty was different. It was a type that I had never felt before. Unease was instead replaced with excitement. Anticipation replaced fear. A sense of possibility so overwhelming, it was nearly palpable. My excitement about the unwritten was so strong, not even the automated job rejection emails (and there were many) could deter it. It kept me up at night, this uncertainty, as I teetered between a lingering adolescence and my adult ambitions.
I continued to stumble my way through the job application process with a naïve enthusiasm for the future. This naiveté I only discovered in hindsight, was firmly rooted in my best display to date of living in the moment. My roommates and I had taken to sharing bottle(s) of cheap wine most evenings on our Alder Street apartment roof. Nostalgia coupled with the thrill of our wide-open futures manifested in incessant discussions of what the next year in all of our lives would hold.
Our haste to meticulously plan the structure of the next decade juxtaposed the moments we surrounded ourselves with. After class drinks at the pub that somehow turned into last call. Conversations with professors that had nothing to do with academics. Madly dashing across busy intersections just to make it to Taco Tuesday by 5pm. On those evenings in June, when the Seattle sun seemed to set with a haphazard grace and the four of us polished off a second bottle of Pinot Noir from the Chevron station, we really didn’t seem to be in a hurry to do anything at all.
That summer college faded quickly in life’s rear-view mirror and I felt a notion pervade each day, demanding that I live in the present. Relishing the moments became habitual to me in those sun-filled June and July weeks. It seems unfair that it is easiest to live in the present when something is coming to an end. I had concluded that these types of moments -the ones that serve as poignant reminders of our existence, were fleeting. Thought about how lucky I was to find myself wrapped up in one, given how rare they are. But I was wrong.
They sail past us everyday. Spill into our lives, like the sun through a window on a warm summer day. They are the smell of brisk morning air as you leave for work. The first sip of coffee on a dreary morning. Driving along the coast with someone you love. The graduation, the internship, the job search and even the reluctant taking of another hospitality job as I continued to slowly assemble the pieces of my career were all populated with these moments.
They permeate our lives everyday. More than finding the right job, the right city to call home, the right person to share my life with, I fear losing these types of moments. Or more accurately, the ability to realize them. As always, it is difficult to see what is right in front of us. That is what the summer taught me. A lesson nearly as valuable as the entire college education itself. How to find the moments.