When i made the big move from Maryland to Massachusetts, my mom packed up an SUV with all the things i'd had in storage at her house. I spend the next few days (or rather, weeks -- no, let's be honest -- months) figuring out what to keep and where and why and what to do with the things i no longer wanted. In all the unpacking and repacking and putting away and sorting through of the first seventeen years of my life, i came across a few surprises. I found things i thought i'd thrown away, things i'd forgotten i was working on, things i couldn't believe i'd ever cared about.
One of my surprises was a piece of notebook paper from high school. I'd written a few thoughts the night before my graduation, and had titled the piece "Graduation Eve". The first paragraph is rambly, pretentious, and bad, but the second one is decent, and has become even more meaningful to me in the five years that have passed since i wrote it.
Tomorrow, everything changes. You are still you, but now you are in a new environment. Even if you haven't actually gone anywhere, you are still "a stranger in a strange land". Your whole geography has somehow shifted, and you foresee this on that magic night. That night, if any, is the night when wishes come true, but the one wish that will not be granted is to go back, because now more than ever, you must move on.
It's not quite the eve of anything now, but the first day of school is fast approaching. Many of my friends will be going back to their undergraduate courses. But some of them will not. Some of them will not be returning to Quincy at all. And as for me, i'll be going to graduate classes. Yes, it will still be in the same buildings. Yes, it will be with some of my old classmates. But it will only be two classes a week, at night.
Everything is different now. I'm learning that by degrees.
I don't think growing up is something that happens. Not all at once. It's something that slips over you gradually, in tiny moments and realizations. And it never ends. You never reach a point where you're done growing up, where you've fully arrived.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say. -- J. R. R. Tolkien