One day, I woke up and I was 22. It’s as if I went to sleep at 15 years old, or it might’ve been at 12, and I’ve just now awoken from my long, disorienting slumber.
Life moves at a rapid, yet repetitive pace. There are only flashes and few instances where I feel that time slows down enough for me to actually absorb my surroundings and take in the moment. But for those times, the train of time keeps chugging, quickly and consistently.
The train that’s been carrying me through these years of school has carried to the end of my education. I’m graduating from college. And, with some sadness, I’m coming to a realization that I’ve slept through most of my journey here.
There have been moments in my life where I felt truly awake and invigorated to do and be anything I wanted. These are the moments when time seems to break from its unrelenting pace. I can think. I can live. But aside from these moments, however, there have been many more instances of feeling anything but present, and less than truly alive.
Now, at 22 years young, I’ve woken up again. In a blink of the eye, I’m here. I’m in the present, as always. But in this present, I’m almost a fully-fledged adult. It’s terrifying, really. It’s what I’ve spent hours wondering about, and what I’ve longed for on more than one occasion. I’ve fantasized about where and who I would be when I had finally arrived at the ripe old age of 22. But now I’m here. And with concerted effort at being introspective and recollecting the expectations I had for myself, I see that I’ve fallen short.
I’m not pleased with where I am or the progress I’ve made. I envisioned a man of 22 years old in my mind – I would be that man. But when I look in the mirror and consider the progress I’ve made, I’m not the man I planned to be.
To be fair, my expectations were abstract, and certainly ambitious. Nevertheless, I haven’t achieved them. And with the unceremonious truth that I’ve fallen short comes a singularly hollow feeling.
And while I had hoped (and secretly expected) that when I sat down to write my last column, I would have something wonderful to report, I’ve left myself wanting.
I’m not the man I want to be.
But before I descended too deeply into a self-loathing melodrama, I stopped to consider how uplifting this feeling actually could be.
I’m not where I wanted to be, that much is true. But that does not impede any further progress. I can reach who I want to be.
What is required is using the past as a compass for charting a future course. I’ve seen where I came up short. I know now what doesn’t work. And this knowledge – the understanding of what makes slow progress – will liberate me to make the largest personal strides.
I started writing my senior column almost exactly one year ago. I thought I knew what I would want to say, and how I would want to express it. But now I know that time is the real answer for understanding anything. And in the past year, I’ve made some of the major progress and taken some of the grisliest missteps to date.
I couldn’t have finished the column last year in the same way that I couldn’t have painted a picture of myself as a 22 year old at that time. Now, with a larger understanding, a sober acknowledgement of areas for growth, I can begin the journey I wanted to start years ago.
True, I’ve reached the end of my efforts of shaping my 22-year-old self. It’s also true that they’re lackluster compared to what I hoped they would be. But as C. JoyBell said, “Ends are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin. And there are many things that don’t really end, anyway, they just begin again in a new way.”
Today marks the day where I begin again on a path toward who I want to be. For anyone who might want to make similar progress, use today as your starting blocks. Get set, and get going.