I like to visualize transition cards in the movie of my life.
At this one, the end of my undergraduate degree, I imagine a snapshot of a heavy, dark, misty day on campus (somewhere like that small wooded area between Modern Languages facing the Arts Quad), ground dark with spring rain, with the word SPRING in a strong white serif font. The card would remain for 10 seconds, violins sawing loudly like the strings in the Mad Max: Fury Road trailer.
My Mom always told me that spring is when you’re most likely to fall ill: you’re tricked by the good weather into shedding your clothes as fast as possible. She would explain to me, in Mandarin, that the coolness of the earth rises up and infects you.
She would be disappointed to know that I was tricked and enticed, seduced by the green buds and warm wind on my skin in my last week of classes: I wore leggings and light jackets, short shirts, clothes that exposed my skin because I ached for spring all winter. I fell ill: my body ached, my lower abdomen hurt, my face was fevered and hot. I fell asleep to the humming of my space heater (cranked up because I was so cold) and woke up sweating and twisted in my duvet. I was thirsty, but water wasn’t enough; hungry, but food made my stomach churn.
More, I was antsy. I was anxious and burning in body. But I secretly welcomed the heat: I appreciated my flush body because it matched my own agitation, restlessness for the next stage, because as much as I loved the spring of my life (my growth and blooming), I’m aching for the next season, for my summer. I can’t stop my mind from wandering to the glowing heat of big cities, feeling like I am on the edge of something so towering and blinding that I’m breathless in anticipation, and still, conscious of the burning anxiety licking at my heels that I must do something productive, that I can’t waste what I’ve been privileged to receive.
Summer in high school meant nights wandering silent suburban streets at dusk, time spent in cold basements playing Let’s Dance, warm and slightly sun-burnt faces pressed against cool articulated bus windows, watching streetlights pass in rapid swoop-swoop-swoops. High school summers, too, were anxiety, and the flaring of anger and frustration because I felt consistently on the edge of the next stage of my life and being my own person– but felt so far. I felt trapped at home, stifled and cramped, and I couldn’t wait to leave.
In my first few years at university, though, sitting at a desk in the rows of single carrels in DC Library, the inky dark night sky visible above me through the window, I despaired that this overwhelming desire to run away hadn’t left. I still wanted desperately to leave because I felt that I was in a winter that never ended: I was desperately lonely, quietly sad, and felt so lost in myself that I forgot how spring smelled and summer felt and, most importantly, how much I loved both and looked forward to them.
But, in my high school Writer’s Craft class, I wrote that I loved the coldest days of winter because you can only go up from there (the teacher scribbled a disbelieving really? in the margin) and while love is a strong word, I appreciated the freezing days and my days of winter. I certainly didn’t love them but without them, I’m eternally grateful for spring, for summer.
Truthfully, summer started months ago: the solstice slipped by without my noticing, and the spring of my life had silently given way to the next season without my realizing. I say without noticing, but when I think about it, I did notice it in my last year, because I felt the golden warmth of real, true love from other people around me, and from me–I let myself want to invest in my own human capital and let myself believe that I, too, deserved a future where my smile would reach my eyes.
That I, too, was allowed to be hungry for those hot, sweltering, fevered summer days, that season of “real life”, and to want to do and dream of more and more and more.
It’s bittersweet because I truly love the sweet tang of spring, but I am so excited for the real heat of summer, and eager for all that it brings, with its heat, its waving grasses, its dry and burning winds of change and what’s next.
A special thanks to Amy Poehler, and her 2013 New Yorker essay, Take Your Licks. I bookmarked it the moment I read it, and I go back to it every few months to read.