I’m standing in my bathroom the morning of graduation when my eyes fall and rest on the unfinished bar of soap sitting aside my sink. I stop everything I’m doing. I stop fixing my hair. I stop tweaking the wing of my eyeliner trying so desperately to get both sides to match – a feat never accomplished. I stop rushing, lamenting over the early hour and intensifying fear of a hangover.
I stare at this unfinished and unused bar of soap and I am entranced by it. It’s slightly used, maybe more than slightly, but its remaining shape is still apparent. It’s another thing in this home of mine that will go without use. It will be left behind. Unused but un-whole. I stare at this bar of soap and it’s oddly poetic.
In a flash I see all the unfinished ventures of my life. I see the lunch dates that never came to fruition, yet were repeated with excitement and desire every time they were brought up. I see the pile of scripts I never wrote, the crafts I never made, mornings spent sleeping instead of attending “college coffee.” I see the friendships that have fallen to the wayside, unwanted, yet secretly still holding an air of curiosity. I see the projects never filmed, the ideas never pursued, the promises of dates, dancing, trips for late night food, photo sessions. I see everything I’ve wanted to do and haven’t. I see everything I’ve tried to do, yet failed to achieve.
All from staring at a fucking half-used bar of soap.
It dawns on me that I’m projecting my fears and emotions onto a bar of lye combined with fat, and that frankly does not make sense.
I look up at my reflection, worn from a week (okay, maybe three) of celebrating our collective exit from the place we’ve called home for four years. It dawns on me that my optimism might be slightly falsified and that I am, like every other soon-to-be-graduating-college-senior, worried.
I am worried that life is going to pass me by. That I’m going to get a job I hate but stay at for security. That I’ll make decisions in my life based on what I think I should do instead of what I want to do. That I’ll follow a path designed for me by people who think they know what I should do based on well-intentioned, yet often unsolicited advice.
I’m worried about what’s next. Because what’s coming up is all reliant on me. No more crutches. No more excuses. It’s time for me to live my life, and that is quite terrifying.
I pause for a moment on the steps of the graduation stage, looking ahead at the girl two places in front of me as she prepares to cross the stage. This is it. The culmination of four years of my life. I stand petrified to jump. The girl in front of me crosses, and as she does, I politely clap and look out at the audience.
In that moment I see the smiling yet tentative faces of the men and women surrounding me. I realize that the fear I have been holding onto, masked in optimism with declarations of “I’m never coming back to this place,” has been a hiding excitement. An adventure, I decide, an adventure of not a lifetime, but of my lifetime.
I look out at the faces of my peers, some familiar and some foreign. I see a flash of all we have done these past four years. Adventures to other countries, films we’ve created, drunken kisses, nights out at the bars and mornings recuperating at brunch. I see the conversations in which my core beliefs have been challenged and changed. I see most clearly the literal fact that four years ago, I knew none of these individuals, but within that time have grown to love and cherish so many of them.
I realize as I step across the stage, shaking the hand of our Provost, that if I did it once I can do it again. I can charge full speed ahead into an unknown future because I have seen it work out for myself before. I step off the stage and walk down the aisle, friends, acquaintances, and strangers smiling at me, saying my name, and providing high fives and fist bumps.
We came together as strangers, but we left united. United in our anxieties, our fears, our determination, our hopefulness, our laughter, our friendships, and in our youth.
We are young. We are the “freshmen of life.” Trapped in awe of our own ability and excited, because ready or not, we are going into the next stage of life and we are going to flourish.
That bar of unfinished soap made me reflect on everything I haven’t done. But that isn’t me. And that’s not the spirit of all the new graduates across the country. We are now entering into the years of our lives where we can do whatever we want. We can mess up, we can make mistakes. We can fall, stumble, mess up and fail. But we will rise again.
We are that bar of soap, we are unfinished. But that bar of soap being half-used means there’s another half that is still there. It’s our turn to grab the reigns of our lives.
I’m confident we will.