It’s been two weeks since my triumphant return to formal education. Finally beginning my college journey on January 17th had me both nervous and excited. It was the first time I’d set foot in the classroom since my high school graduation in the summer of 2003. Would I remember how to do this? What was the parking situation going to be like? What about my teachers? But it was time to stop making excuses for myself and letting myself stay content where I was. If my current living situation and the state of the world at large has taught me anything lately is that you can’t just sit still. You have to get up and you have to move. You can’t stay in your rut forever. And I’m beginning to think that’s what I’ve been in the last few years.
The streets were rain-soaked Tuesday night as I was driving home from class. I was feeling terrible and stupid. I’m hilariously bad at math but my teacher is lightning-fast poetry in motion. I’m afraid I’m going to fail and this entire experience will have been for nothing. In contrast to my sour mood, Downtown Indianapolis was just starting to come alive. Not from the usual boring sound of car horns and engines during rush hour, but rather the sights and sounds of nightlife. I’m so worn down by life and routine that I was initially dumbfounded by the fact that there’s even such a thing as nightlife on a Tuesday night. Don’t people work or have class in the morning? But of course, that’s more of my own ignorance at work. These aren’t just drunks and junkies. These are the people winding down from their own jobs in the service sector. These are the artists and poets. Maybe people that still have that spark of humanity out there looking for someone to love. These are my people. This is the tribe that I’ve somehow departed.
As I approached The Thirsty Scholar, a coffee and wine bar nestled in the shadows of glittering skyscrapers at the corner of Pennsylvania and 16th Streets, I get stopped at a red light. My gaze falls onto the small café just as a young man in a leather jacket and hipster haircut walks out onto the corner to light a cigarette. My mind wonders who he is, where he comes from and where he’s going, and what his life is like. I wonder if he’s satisfied with his life. And for a moment, it feels a little bit like I’m looking at a distant version of my former self that I’ve left behind. When I get home, I get in touch with my more outgoing friend and ask if she’d like to meet me there sometime after class. There couldn’t be a more appropriately named establishment for meeting after class, after all. But this evening it finally dawned on me that perhaps my ship has already sailed. My hip cigarette-smoking, cityscape-dwelling days are long gone and it might do me better to let them rest in peace.
What this strange transcendentalism has provided me this week though is the opportunity to realize that it’s time to buckle down and start growing a little bit differently. Just because I’m a responsible and boring adult doesn’t mean that I have to give up on the artists and poets. I can still express myself, I can still raise my voice, and I can still live my life to its fullest. The only person that’s gonna get me there is me, after all.