Do you ever have those moments when you wish you could simply freeze time and just stay in the same spot forever?
For me, oftentimes I have these thoughts not while I am doing something blog-worthy or laughing until my stomach hurts or eating something that I wish could be served bottomless like the bread basket at the Cheesecake Factory. Rather, these moments seem to occur most often when I am sitting in the backseat of one of my parents’ cars driving back from some family excursion or day trip.
As my dad fumbles through the stations trying to find music that he can recognize and (attempt to) sing to, my mom shakes her head in frustration just wanting him to pick something.
When I look to my right, I see either one of two things: 1. My sister asleep with her face awkwardly positioned against the window, inevitably setting her up for jokes when she wakes with awkward markings on her face; or, 2. My sister texting away on her call phone at an impressive words-per-minute rate.
While this is going on, I sit trying to fall asleep. In the end, however, my mind cannot shut down, so instead I stare out the window at the all-too familiar Rhode Island scenery and street signs signaling that I am home.
It is in this instant that I wish I never have to unbuckle my seatbelt and exit the backseat. The innocence and monotony of the car ride is not exactly the ultimate memory (except for the occasional Journey singalongs), but it is such moments in the car with my family that I love. In the car, we are all together, we are safe, we feel protected from everything outside our doors. The present is bliss.
After finishing my junior year at Georgetown more than two weeks, my mind keeps drifting to this image of the backseat, buckled and secure. Although I still have one more year left, already three years of college have gone by, and a part of me cannot help but believe that the next year will go by just as quickly. And then what?
I have this notion that my college graduation will be like me exiting the backseat of my parents’ car, absent of the security and protection of the seatbelt and the cars’ airbags; I simply don’t know exactly where I will be after I slam the door to claim my college diploma.
For a long time, I thought law school was the answer. No question, no pause, no concerns; law school was where I would be after Georgetown. But now, after the two most emotionally and personally difficult semesters at college, I have doubts about where the car will park itself after my senior year.
While I might try to convince myself that these doubts are new, I must admit that they have been growing for sometime. Committing myself to another three years of school without an extended break between graduation and enrollment is not an all-too appealing option. Add on the cost of more higher education on top of my current student loan debt, and I set myself up for a lifetime of endless work trying to pay off my tuition bills.
But is that what I really want? Even if I convince myself that school is what I want to keep pursuing, must it be law school? What about graduate school for English or Government? What about racking up even more debt by getting my Ph.D?
Or how about no more school at all, and I just find begin my career right away? Yet again, the question arises as to what field I want to work in as a twenty-something graduate.
Each decision is just like the coming to an intersection and picking which way to turn. For some people, the direction to take is clear in their minds. That is how I felt as a freshman three years ago. Today, however, I’m left pondering at the gas pedal as I attempt to figure out where to turn next.
I keep being told that no matter what direction I choose, ultimately it is for the best because I will have chosen it for myself. I cannot rely on someone else for directions about my future. I am slowly coming to realize that I create my own map, albeit one that will likely include lots of twists and turns and complicated routes to whatever maybe my final destination.
But even if I don’t know where I will be when I exit the car, I know that the journey is worth appreciating. Although they cannot create my path for me, the people I will meet will be influential and essential to steering me towards whatever makes me the happiest.
There will be potholes, traffic delays and unforeseen speed bumps, but they can’t be anticipated, and they cannot be avoided.
Life’s road is not a straight line. The journey is challenging, emotionally draining and long, but it is also rewarding, fulfilling and, sometimes, seem as if it is not long enough.
As I prepare for my final summer as an undergraduate, thoughts of the pending future are regularly on my mind. I can’t stop people from asking me what I will be doing after I graduate, but that does not mean I must have an answer for them. Soon enough, the car will park itself, somewhere, to begin life’s next chapter.
But for now, I want to enjoy the present and let the images I see from the window narrate my thoughts.