It's been a very long time since I was "forced" to write a blog post! I just graduated from the usual 5 year program at CSU and I wish I could say I feel amazing. It is like driving Red Mountain Pass, and realizing the road that you were complaining about, with all of the bumps, skid marks, side swipes, 'almost' fatal "crash-and-burns", and overall sweaty palms the whole ride, leads to this downhill portion; granted, it's on the very top of the hill and you can finally see miles and miles into the "future". You can even look back and say, "wow, look what I just went through!". But then you start to drop.
You feel free, like you could just throw your hands up in your topless 1997 Jeep Wrangler and scream all the way down until you run out of breath, while simultaneously crying because you just got done with the most grueling "Mr. Toad" ride of your life. You're stuck in neutral freewheeling down this monster hill thinking, wait... It can't be "all down hill from here"! You could hit the brakes, move in with mom and dad, and "take a breather". The problem with that is you'll burn out your brakes! Just a light tap here and there will suffice, as long as you try and do a 360 "look-around"; take in the views as they keep whizzing by. A very mixed bag of feelings, which, you thought you were done with once you became "an adult". Little did you know they become more intense as you age. Love/hate. You're only 23(5-year program, remember?), but somehow the very anti-climactic celebration of graduation leaves you feeling a little lost, even though the road is "clearly" marked. After a while you get your "adult" thoughts in order, saying, "oh, yeah, college prepared me for this". This = the rest of your life. The mundane tasks of "adulting" have become second nature. Paying bills, doing laundry, making your own food, remembering to take out the trash on Mondays, have now become muscle memory, but at the same time you do have a little more freedom, (at least that's what you tell yourself). I think I do.
Just like shifting a manual (what is that?), when you come to a complete stop, it becomes easier and easier to reach 5th gear, or, "back to normal?", "cruising speed?"; whatever it means to live a full life and fell like your doing what you need to in order to succeed. You always have to stop eventually. The gas light comes on and you say, "dang, I need to get gas". Which usually means, "my life sucks right now, but I can do something to make it "go". Paying student loans, (or any loan, for that matter), is just like paying for gas. Once you've paid, you feel good, "Just got a full tank of gas, let's go!" A month (more or less, depending on your gas mileage, or, "interest"), goes by, and you have to "make a deposit". Except you get to finally stop paying your loan, (hopefully), (and then you get another one, for a car, house, going back to school (yeah right)).
After a few months of this 75 degree steady decline, you start to think, "should I pull off?". How? Guard rails on each side, (perceived images of how you need to go through life), and no median, force you to keep going. You could probably close your eyes, and maybe you do, but then you'll miss possible exits, (same steep road though). You'll miss beautiful views, opportunities, and the possibility to eventually go up hill! Which sounds hard, but now you've got the skills to do anything, practically. Most of us are already on that uphill stage. A new job, city, friends, etc... That last road was a b***h, but it prepared you for any obstacle. You're ready to cruise at speeds you've never gone before, around turns, through canyons and over (hopefully "un-burned") bridges, over mountains, (to witness those breathtaking views), across the plains of mundane, and eventually make it home; maybe you've picked up a hitch-hiker along the way to spend the rest of your lives together.
This new portion of the road, "Exit: 'Next Step", brings you through new lands and opportunities you only imagined while lying in your bed, in your dorm room, on a Saturday night watching old episodes of Parks and Recreation, (when you probably should be studying, or at least being social at party somewhere; football game?!) No, the thought of doing nothing is the happiest thing you can think of because "nothing" is a rare occasion in college. "Having fun" is way more accessible while in college, than outside of it, so take advantage of those "joy-rides", no matter how short. As fun as doing "nothing" is, getting "out there" and living, while you have unlimited resources, (friends, who are pretty much on the same road as you are), is the best way to make it through. The limited knowledge that you all have about "cars", some more than others, can make the "bumps and pot-holes" smoother.
The road continues on and you have a chance to turn on your road-trip playlist and figure out who you really are, which is a never ending process, so good luck... You put on your sunglasses, keep that top down, (even if it is a little chilly; feel that crisp air and know you're alive), and cruise! Ride off, into a very slow-setting, sun-set. You know the road will eventually smooth out and you should take on the bumps and pit-stops along the way, with enthusiasm; tears and laughter both, because one day, you'll look back and wonder, (man, I had to pay a lot for a little piece of paper), when did my road become so easy? I've been forced to keep going and I was worried about avoiding every little crack and crevice. I should have lifted my head up and tried to realize everyone goes through something similar and we're all just driving like Thelma and Louise, together, (minus the felonies, hopefully), trying to live! Driving off a cliff would be a way to go, (sorry, spoiler alert). In the mean time, "keep on 'keeping on'" and try to stay awake!