I graduated a year ago today.
My life then: listening to lectures, gabbing with friends in dorm rooms, attending Masses at Gesu, writing term papers on convoluted concepts, some of which I’m still struggling to grasp. I had hot cookies on Mondays, $5 pizzas at Papa John’s on Tuesdays, Friday night dinners with my aunt and uncle and chicken nuggets or mac ‘n cheese or whatever other dining hall delicacies were available on the days in between. It was four years of Grey’s Anatomy binge sessions, highlighter-covered hands, crappy apartment couches and shivering, snowy walks to Johnston Hall.
That life came with an expiration date: May 22, 2016.
The crappy couch and mac ‘n cheese, they’re still there, dominating my everyday life. So, too, are my trusty highlighters, which I use to review financial budgets and lawsuits and whatever other documents I’m sifting through for my story of the day. But the other stuff, it’s been replaced with palm trees and school board meetings and a helluva lotta humidity for a person with my type of hair to have to handle.
I’m halfway across the country writing for a newspaper I hadn’t heard of 15 months before. I’m living in a house on Hilton Head Island with two other reporters. I’m a 15-minute bike ride to the beach. Five days a week, I cross the bridge and, if I time my commute just right, am graced with the sunrise over the Lowcountry.
I’ve had some cool assignments for my job. Trying to hold a state agency accountable for a statute that went into effect following a state-of-emergency declaration. Writing about cute kids at a Christmas Pageant. Interviewing a military man who, up until months before 9/11, was working in the Pentagon building. Covering when The Bachelorette came to film an episode on the island. And, my most exciting career opportunity thus far, covering the before-during-and-after of Hurricane Matthew, the largest natural disaster to hit Hilton Head since Hugo roared through in 1989.
“We have, if we’re lucky, about 30,000 days to play the game of life. And trust me, that’s not morbid. In fact, it’s wisdom that will put all the inevitable failures and rejections and disappointments and heartbreaks into perspective.
What I struggle with most in this new life is the lack of an expiration date. For the rest of my life, there is no more May 22 telling me it’s time to move on. It’s almost like I have to come up with my own arbitrary expiration date. It’s just me and my highlighter-covered hands to make something of it.