Life works in cycles, and most of the time, those cycles end in formal goodbyes. You say goodbye to some of your grade-school friends when you finish eighth grade, your high school friends when you turn 18 and your college friends whenever you graduate – so at Temple, after about eight years. It’s tough, but there’s time to prepare emotionally. It feels fitting, if not good, like a rite of passage.
But sometimes those cycles end when you’re not ready. Recently one of my closest friends at Temple left to live in New Orleans after dropping out of school. Entering his senior year, he decided he wasn’t happy in his major, and after working at home for the past several months, set out in his car toward Louisiana to stay with a friend.
His plans are far from concrete. Embracing the potential adventure in it, he said he hopes to get a job to save some money, but after that it’s pretty much an open road.
It was difficult saying goodbye to him. He was one of the first friends I made at Temple. We lived in the same dorm freshman year, and ever since then the group we run with has done pretty much everything together.
And even though I knew he’d been leaving for a while, when he finally said his goodbyes, it was tough. He was the first to go, and the inevitable departure of my friends and me into post-college life will make it harder and harder to stay in touch. That’s a terribly overused cliché, but it doesn’t seem like one when it actually starts happening to you.
There was the expected backlash from people in our circle.
“He should just finish school!” they shouted. “He doesn’t have a plan.”
I had my initial doubts as well. However, I have to admit that they were motivated by my own selfish desire for him to stay. And the more I think about it, the more jealous I am of him.
I, like many Temple students, have to take an extra semester to graduate. Looking ahead at the next year, I’m excited to see the fruits of my labor start to materialize as I inch closer to finishing school. But the flipside of that is that I’m here in North Philly for another semester, whether I like it or not.
That means more papers, more tests and more obligations, coupled with my part-time job and most likely another internship to boost my precious résumé. Every task completed is just a precursor to something else I have to do.
Certainly, I don’t mean to complain about the privilege of higher education afforded to me. But deep down I can feel the commitments I’ve made tying me down, restraining me to make sure I’m in bed Sunday night for work the next morning. I can feel it pulling, leading me to constantly check dates to make sure everything is submitted on time. It’s relentless and never-ending.
So after my friend left, what should have been sadness was envy. I couldn’t suppress the idea of cutting all of my ties and heading anywhere.
Seriously, imagine it. Take a moment to imagine breaking free from everything you’re stuck to. Take that mental vacation. Don’t worry, it won’t last too long. You just got an email you have to respond to.
Eventually I came out of that admittedly over-dramatic funk. Ultimately I’m relatively satisfied with the direction my life is headed and look back at my bigger decisions with little regret.
But after seeing my friend, who wasn’t in that position, have the ability to recognize that and get out of it, I know that if I ever don’t like where I’m headed I’ll do something different. He knew that many disapproved of his decision, but did what he felt like he needed to do. He saw where he was going, and knew he didn’t really want to get there.
We’re all slaves to routine to a certain degree, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, when you become chained down by your means and aren’t happy with what the ends will be, the routine becomes nothing more than a false sense of security.
Dan Craig can be reached at email@example.com.