Assigning meaning in times of change

I remember the distinct feelings of the last year of high school, and senior year of college. I remember the way every moment wore a cloak of assigned importance because I didn’t know how else to deal with impending change, except to believe everything mattered so much. In high school, I coped by squeezing in extra late night bonfires by the lake, and aimless drives with the top down, long talks with my best friends at the top of the tallest building in our small town, just to have a chance to soak in more quality time before the separation. I remember the teenage feeling that everything I knew would end with the Summer and I’d never be the same.

Every last memory was a landmark. It’s why my friends and I spent graduation night on top of our high school roof taking one last look out at the football field, and the courtyard, and the community that cradled us through the strangest and scariest years of our young lives.

I went to college. Things did change, but four years later I was swept back up in the swell. As if I hadn’t felt the same approaching transition once before, I clung to every last moment before I had to really do this life thing all by myself. Sure the feelings that this was the most important time of my life were dwarfed by the fear and anxiety of job hunting in the middle of an economic crisis, but the last time I marathon-studied for an exam in Addlestone library had the same elevated meaning that only imminent life change (and an overactive imagination) could give.

Both times I remember being acutely aware that I’d never be in this same place with these same people, or the same library with these same textbooks, at any other time in my life.

I’m not sure we ever really get to feel that again. Is there another point in the natural progression of life on earth when we know that everyone around us will soon separate and go her own way?

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