The last first week
Being a senior facing your last first week of college feels kind of like being drunk and alone at the bottom of Mead Chapel hill on a Saturday night in winter.
You were at a party with your friends but felt the tug of your warm bed, so decided to leave early. The snow doesn’t even bother you—there is no wind, no thick flakes sticking to the scarf wrapped tightly around your face. There is no one else around and the only sound is that of distant running. It is just you and the quiet peace of soaking in the kind of rolling cold that makes you aware of every breath you take, the kind of cold that presses itself against the walls of your lungs and makes you want to stare at the stars and get lost in your smallness.
But even when you think that you could stay in this space forever (this hollow cold, these stars) there is the hill with its mammoth marble structure looming like some sort of taunt high above you. You’ve made it so far, a pioneer who successfully navigated his or herself from a party at the Mill or Weybridge or some seedy under the Otter Creek Bridge water-nymph-themed soiree, and now there is just this one little hurdle, this one little end, and it shouldn’t be so hard to overcome, but you are tired and drunk and freezing and you’re wishing that you could’ve stayed at the party for just a little bit longer because the music wasn’t actually that bad and the awkward guy handing out Rolling Rock from the fridge was actually kind of cute, or maybe you could’ve just stayed until someone else was leaving so that you wouldn’t have to face this hill by yourself and you’re thinking about how maybe you could slip into the bed of an old flame or an old friend who lives below the hill and sleep off this party until morning when it would certainly be easier to make the climb because then you could certainly surmount it by yourself without any problem because the sun would be shining and the ice would melt and the vodka would seep from your skin and you’d feel a little more prepared and a little more like yourself and maybe then things wouldn’t feel so scary.
You squint the bubbly little squirts of your eyeballs at the shadow-etched words you’ve long since memorized and start walking. Because the strength of the hills is yours also and even in this slipping of drunken shoe to black ice, you are still walking: clumsily, embarrassingly. You wouldn’t want your mother or your advisor to see the way that you are walking, but at least you are moving forward. Some patches are easier than others and some catch you and make you trip, but you don’t ever quite lose your step, don’t ever falter long enough to tumble into the snow banks on either side of the path. Or maybe you do. Maybe you fall flat on your face until the snow swallows you whole. And maybe it’s hard to get up, but you do, because you’ve come too far to do anything else but dust the powder from your shoulders and keep moving, keep slurring quietly under your breath The strength of the hills is His also until you almost believe it.
Because there is a life of warm beds and hilltops waiting for you, somewhere in the lurking purple stain of this night. You’ve walked this hill a hundred times and even though this time is harder, you’ll make it through with a shimmy and a giggle. Your history lives in this hill and it’s silly to think that you could’ve been prepared for what the last climb would feel like. Because it feels shitty and exhilarating and earned and not earned and hard and effortless and everything and nothing and gone too soon, gone like sweet intoxication that winds itself into a dull hangover come the morning.
But for now, one foot in front of the other.
Breath in, breath out.
Focus on every step, every moment—the end is much closer than you could ever possibly imagine.