All of a sudden I’m 17 again.
And not really in a refreshing all of a sudden I’m hot like Zac Efron and the basketball captain again kind of way, but more like I’m back in my freshman year of college. It’s the most confusing kind of senioritis, the one that takes you back 4 years and firmly digs its heels in, refusing to let you realize that graduation is imminent.
All of my friends I came in with have graduated, married, had kids, moved away, became missionaries or cosmetologists and left me here alone. I’ve bonded hard and fast with this year’s crop of freshman, all of us proud to be North Park Vikings and not held down with engagement rings or student loans yet. It’s easy enough to forget that I’m old when I'm in my sheep’s clothing amongst these new recruits.
But then I leave Albany Park and am immediately swarmed with questions about what I'm doing after graduation, where I’m living, what I’m doing, if I’m excited, if I’m scared, what my parents are saying, have I got my graduation tickets yet? And all I want to do is retreat back into the dorms, drink coffee and pretend that I just started college and that these questions have nothing to do with me.
The weird thing is, I know what I'm doing.
I don’t have that post graduation uncertainty lingering over me. I'm going to whatever country requests me and serving in the Peace Corps for 2 years. It’s a fully respectable position, doesn’t require a lot of explanation, is impressive enough that my parents can say it over their respective operating tables and not feel the need to avert their eyes in shame.
If anyone should feel okay it about graduating, it should be me.
But I don’t.
The idea of leaving Chicago, or more directly leaving North Park is enough to send me into a blind panic. North Park is my home. I grew up here. I became a woman here. I met my best friends here. I found my voice here. North Park was always waiting for me to come back from New York or Disney and the thought of leaving it for good gives me the Chipotle brick in my stomach, but in a much less satisfying way.
I’m 22 and clinging to the idea of re-living my freshman year again. One last semester of being in my safe place before I have to move to a third world country, become financially independent and start being a grown up.
Is that such a bad thing?
I have 5 months until graduation. 5 months to be in love with North Park for one last time. 5 months to get ready for the world that I’ve been dying to see. I’ll get there, whether or not I can see it now.
I just hope the world is ready for me.