Tuesday, April 5, 2016

in which I reflect.

Sunday night was the annual benefit concert at the ASC to celebrate the closing of the Ren Season and raise money for musical instruments.  It was the third year in a row I'd attended, and for me, it was an evening of profound joy and sadness and reflection—like usual.

The first year I went, I was just about done with my first year of grad school—a year of triumph and joy and love.  Nearly all of my friends went with me, and we danced the night away.  I came home from the concert and wrote a love letter to the ASC for being a big part of my joy.

Last year the concert was held on my sixth wedding anniversary…five days after my husband asked for a divorce.  I excused myself mid-concert to cry in the bathroom.  Two days later, I defended my thesis and passed without revisions.  My greatest failure followed hard on by my greatest success.

The concert was different this year.  For one thing, I counted among the actors onstage a couple of legitimate friends, one of whom I am very sad to be saying goodbye to.  Almost none of my friends came.  And while I always expected this to be my final concert, the end of my time in Staunton, it wasn't.  Because I failed to get into a PhD program, so I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.  In the span of twelve months, I failed at the two things no one ever expected me to fail at—my marriage is over and I'm not getting a PhD.  What madness is this?

I've spent the last year learning to live without my husband, and the last two months learning to live with the idea that I'm not getting a PhD this year.  I've learned to deal with the shame and embarrassment and anger and move toward healthful productivity. I've been dating a little, which is a strange thing.  The last time I dated someone who wasn't my husband, I was a damn teenager.  I've made a satisfactory plan to get me through the next year in Staunton, until I can reapply for PhD programs and (I very much hope) matriculate next fall.  In short, I've been learning to be a real person, reliant on only myself.

The long and the short of everything is that Staunton is the first place that's ever been mine. I've grown and changed so much here.  I'm proud of the things I've accomplished, the person I've become. I'm even proud of the ways in which I've failed—because each failure has led to new, beautiful things.

The last song the Ren troupe played before leaving the stage is a new one to me, part of the Love for Love set list, but it's come to be extraordinarily dear to me.  It's called "Rivers and Roads", and it starts with these lyrics:

A year from now we'll all be gone
All our friends will move away
And they're going to better places
But our friends will be gone away
Nothing is as it has been
And I miss your face like Hell
And I guess it's just as well
But I miss your face like Hell

As Chris began singing this plaintive, beautiful song, I caught eyes with my very best Marshall, sitting on the other side of the balcony, directly across from me.  He won't be gone in a year. He'll be gone in three months. Same with Aubrey and Merlyn.  My friends are leaving, for bigger and better things, and I'm staying here, in this place I love, in my shitty shoebox apartment, with an impending case of ennui.

The end of Ren Season always feels like an ending, because it is. It's right before the end of the semester. This year is more acute—it's the final graduation, and people I love dearly are leaving, maybe forever.  I'm a whirlwind of emotions right now.  But I'm strong and capable, and I know these things to be true: nothing in the last year is enough to sink me. I will get a PhD someday, I will find love again, I will not have to settle, and I'm going to be okay.  So maybe my life isn't Rivers and Roads.  Maybe my life is Wherever Is Your Heart.

Wherever is your heart I call home
Wherever is your heart I call home
Though your feet may take you far from me, I know
Wherever is your heart I call home

This one's for the ones I love most; the ones who have made this year so damn great, even through all the suck: Molly and Haylie and Marfall and PDM and Aubs and, most surprisingly and wonderfully, Holtzy.

1 comment:

Molly S. said...

Girl, you are too many things. Not least of which, my idol and my friend and I am a selfish enough person to be a little happy that I get to keep you in my zipcode for another year. xoxox.