Are you excited to graduate?
I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing after this. I don’t know how to assess whether I enjoyed the University of Michigan, whether it was good for me. I think it was, when I look around at my friends, when I think about how much I have learned in the past four years. I’m so grateful to all the people I have met here, my professors, everyone. It’s been largely really good.
But then, it’s also been painful. I’ve felt really lost during swaths of my time here. I wander around, looking at the thousands of people I’ll never meet, feeling like a pawn, like I’ve made no dent on anything here. I spend time in destructive thought patterns where I can do nothing right, where I don’t leave my apartment for hours, where I alienate myself from my friends and sink hopelessly inwards.
So, despite all of that, do you like the University?
Once again, I don’t know. Whenever people ask me that, I say it feels like they’re asking me about my life. The University has become everything, and so they’re just sort of asking whether I have been happy for the past four years. It’s a deeply mixed bag.
And when I try to pull instances of the University being either good or bad for me from my memory, I often falter. I sometimes can’t name a single concrete memory. Words and literal events don’t capture how I’m feeling about this place.
Maybe that’s part of growing up? This is my own question. Maybe important experiences aren’t always so concrete, their impact on you isn’t so clearly defined. Instead, they sink into you in myriad, undefinable ways. And maybe part of this means the impact of important experiences is not always immediately communicable or intelligible to anybody, including yourself. So, sit with it, sit with yourself, come to know your own mind. And then, from that place of patience and curiosity, decide what to share. A balance of privacy, then, deciding what to share and what to keep to yourself and what to continue pondering for further exploration.
This hazy web of associations that I fall back into arises when I’m thinking about friendships that have ended during my time here. Friendships that, in their prime, meant everything to me. Friendships that ended for reasons I’m not entirely sure about. I find myself, from time to time, speaking in playful voices that those people and I used to use with each other. I find buying certain brands of cheese at the supermarket, remembering past friends who showed me how good and consistent and versatile Mexican blend really can be.
It is these moments in which these friends come back. Here, too, when I remember these people, I struggle to extract concrete memories. Did the friendships even happen? Have I actually been here for the past four years? Is this really what they call college, and will I never be coming back to it again?
And what do I have to show for it?
The other night, like so many other people on this campus, I watched our men’s basketball team win a game and go on to the Final Four. I had so much fun hanging out with my friends, going to Rick’s afterwards (for the first time!) and making new friends, if only for a night. Why was this such a fun time? I think it’s because I do feel pride in attending this school, pride to be able to look around my friend’s living room and see a group of people I’ve gotten to know, and that’s Michigan, and then to look on the TV screen and see our team, and that’s Michigan, too. Pride that a school can fill so many crannies, both in my interpersonal world and in the larger social world, too.
Experiences, then, begin to blend into each other. What informs my circumstances becomes less clear. The University will stick with me. The friends who I’m not able to hold onto will have had their impact in ways I won’t be able to immediately or clearly define. I will watch these games forever, always feeling the everything-ness of the experiences I had in Ann Arbor.
It’s all a mess, sort of, of experiences and friendships and associations bleeding into each other. And I’m really grateful for this mess, because it provides a world into which I can introspectively wander, sometimes trying to pick out what came from where. And the fact that I can be permanently influenced in subtle ways by subtler interactions means that I ought to remain attentive and open to the possibility that anything can help shape me, at any moment. Attentive to my mind and where it goes, sometimes trying to link it to its origins, and when that gets exhausting or futile, just letting it come to a place of rest, accepting my inability to always know why I’m thinking what I’m thinking.
This column is my effort to capture this mess, and it’s turning into a bit of a mess, too, isn’t it?
So maybe when I talk about a correlation between this whole inability to express the impact of experiences and growing up. What I mean to say is that part of life now is to accept and embrace this chaos, this inability to always articulate and share, to control what impacts you and how things shape you. Instead of worrying about this stuff, going out into the world open and reflective and ready to be shaped, responding and pondering and wandering all the time.
I’m in a place of messily wandering. Because what else?
Isaiah Zeavin-Moss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.