I am no longer in Colorado.
Tuesday + Wednesday + Thursday = 3 tanks of gas.
I am no longer in Colorado.
From brightbrightbright Colorado Springs down into the brick of Trinidad, where just outside on the 25 I supposedly raced with a military boy in a Mustang but I didn’t know we were racing until after the fact in the parking lot of a Safeway and he said thanks for the entertainment during the dull stretch.
DULL STRETCH? Dull stretch? What a fool. The pastel mesas and cracked land and burnt ridges, the suddenly changing slopes. Cross the border into New Mexico and the black skeleton trees and charcoal flats of burnt Raton Pass. The caramel plains evening out only to curve into the bends and endless pinon trees. Sunset. Blinded by my dirty windshield. A night in Santa Fe. A day sweeping across the quiet desert. Hot and numb, a cocoon, until we found the smoke of the Slide Fire. Poor northern Arizona. Flagstaff choked by fiery hot clouds.
And then, the final leg, the white Mojave. My sister complained because I didn’t let her drive once the entire 22 hour drive. And even on that last day, sick with a cold of doom, eyes tired from days of road staring, the empty desert so pale, I wanted to drive. I needed to drive. My way of saying goodbye. Of leaving Colorado. And it’s like I blinked and I was driving through an afternoon rain storm into the Angels National Forest, almost home. Home. This home. Colorado was home. Is home. This has always been home. Soon Alaska will be a home too. I hope so at least.
I’m no longer in Colorado. It kind of hurts.
Um. So. It happened.
I graduated. And it was weird and it was awesome and I’m a college graduate. I don’t have a diploma, but I have a degree. My name was called and I walked across a stage under the high Colorado sun and I was grinning like a buffoon the entire time and it’s kind of awesome because in 2010 I had this crazy idea of attending a little crazy school down the street and somehow the idea transformed into a dream that I kicked at for two years until it became reality. And then, another two years later plus four months, today, I graduated.
So. That was cool.
I did it. I did it. I did it. My last essay submitted. My last reading read. My last class meeting attended. I’m graduating. I’m graduating from something. I’m graduating from the school that I never thought I’d be given the opportunity to attend, let alone succeed at. Confession: I’ve been bluffing since 2011. I never knew if I’d make it through the end. To this moment. To my last fourth Wednesday, standing with my fellow graduating seniors on the quad, holding a bottle of champagne, counting down to noon. I never thought I’d dance and cheer and cry beneath the sticky cold spray on an absurdly cold spring day. It was an idea. It was a dream. Something to fantasize about when I was on walks or trying to fall asleep. Yet I did it.
And on Monday, I walk the stage. They’ll call my name. My name is on the list taped to registrar window. It’s happening. On the quad, sticky and shivering from the champagne, hugging these crazy people I’ve grown to love and respect during my 2 years here–who have let me in despite my only have been here for 2 years–I kept saying that: it’s happening.
Am I being over dramatic?
If I am, guess what. I don’t care.
See, here’s the thing, I’ve identified myself as a high school graduate since 2007. That’s not technically true because I ducked out of high school with a Certificate of Proficiency, but in my head, I left. I feel like I dropped out. And for years, I told people I didn’t want to go to college, that it wasn’t for me, that I did’t see the need, but, let’s be real, I was scared. Scared out of my bloody mind that I wasn’t cut out. Scared to try. Didn’t think I was worth it. Didn’t think I was smart enough. Considered it unattainable. But then I stumbled onto CC and I summersaulted into an obsession, a silly dream that somehow came true. I was accepted. Yet even then, I was horrified I’d fall face first. But I didn’t. Well. No. I did. But I laughed it off, shook the rocks from my hair and treated the bruises with care, and then got back up and tried again. These have been the most challenging years of my life, but I did it. And I’ve loved it. It was everything and nothing that I expected at the same time. And now, on Monday, I graduate. They’ll call my name.
You’ll be hearing more about this later,
P.S. I didn’t take any of these photos. They were all stolen from Facebook. Oops. I was too busy to take photos–jumping and drinking and hugging friends, such as my fellow Creative Writing: Fiction major/Writing Center Tutor.
Oh, and YAY, finally non-snowy photos. GREEN! Green, green, green when only on Monday it was white and grey.
My last assigned reading at Colorado College is Raymond Carver’s “What’s in Alaska?”
It’s kind of perfect. I think it’s perfect, even if it challenges the way I’ve constructed nature and the idea of the place–any place–in my mind. Even if it’s not an ode to Alaska and Fairbanks and moving to such an obscure place.
Today, in Colorado Springs, it snowed and snowed and snowed. My last Colorado snow. It’s expected to be in the 80s next weekend, graduation weekend. I’ll miss this. I will miss Pike’s Peak. Bright and high. I will miss these streets. The sharpness of the mountains the next morning. The white on bright spring green. The gentle fall. Soft and cool, quiet. What will the snow be like in Fairbanks? Google tells me it snows about 70 inches a year in Fairbanks, compared to Colorado Springs’s 37 inches. And in Fairbanks, it can plummet down to -50 degrees. In Colorado Springs, we freak out at 0. I will miss taking lame photos from my car. Because–TRAGEDY–I’m no longer driving to Alaska. It doesn’t make sense to shell out extra thousands of dollars (that I don’t have) simply for the comfort and convenience of having my car. So my car will wait three (one? two?) years in California until I return and I will instead journey via the clouds.
I work my last shift in the Ruth Barton Writing Center on Tuesday. I’ve only worked in this little nest of the library for a year, but it’s home. it’s become home. The people. The walls. The cubbies. The floor. I’m often found on the floor. I’ll be tutoring in the Writing Center at Fairbanks (it’s part of my TA-ship agreement), but I suspect it won’t be the same. It won’t be here. It’ll be there. Until it becomes here. Does that make sense? We had our end of the year party on Friday–the Writing Center–and in every photo from the event, I’m grinning or laughing or trying not to laugh in every single photo. Happy. I don’t know if I can usually recognize my own happiness in photos, but hell, you know, I was–I am–happy.
Please excuse my scattered brain, I only have three days left of being an undergraduate. Would you think it’s a bit over dramatic if I told you I cry at random every hour? Like on the floor can’t breathe can’t stop sobs. Maybe it’s a bit dramatic, but whatever. It’s who I am. It’s how I am. This is big. This is unlike anything I’ve done before. I’m graduating. I’m actually going to graduate. And then I leave Colorado Springs for a summer in California and then I’ll attempt to make a new home in Alaska. Perhaps it’s silly, but I take comfort in these small signs. Meeting folk in the Sprout’s check out line from Alaska. My last assigned reading’s title and subject matter. Our screening of the Grizzly Man . All signs point to Alaska.
But until then, I’m here. Right here. Colorado Springs. And it’s beautiful and painful and warm in the homiest of ways, and though I’ve forgotten how to sleep, there is nowhere else I’d rather be.
Reading The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin for my last hurrah of a block at CC (Lit + Nature) and, man, am I happily drowning in her words. She makes me question my sanity in leaving the burning deserts and scarred foothills for the isolated cold north. She reminds me of my roots, of what I can always return to, as well as excites me for what is soon to come. In four weeks, my younger sister and I will drive through southern Colorado, into New Mexico, through Arizona, until I dip back into the bristly valleys of my (California) home. I’ve taken this 23 hour route three times before. Always so decadent. The blinding sandy white and cosmic sharp reds. The Southwest. A dry heat I claim to hate but so adore, so so so crave. I can’t wait. Even as I spin in the remains of this sunny spring’s chill, as I try to stay right here in Colorado Springs, my mind skips of to what’s to come.
Commencement. The drive from Colorado to California. Summer with my family. An internship I’m less than psyched about. Revisions, revisions, revisions. Always revisions. A blessed jaunt to Cabo with my family. An arguably more blessed family slip up to Lake Nacimiento, perhaps with some wine tasting thrown in. The Orange County bristling heat I find myself writing about every day. My 23rd birthday. The ten day journey that will carry me north by car and boat. Alaska. A new world and phase and whatever the hell you want to call it that I’m more terrified of than I care to admit. But eager. More than anything, I’m eager and open to the new and the pain and the unexpected and the cold and the beauty.
My thoughts are blissfully scrambled. So much to do. So much to say. So many friends to share a final cup of coffee with, a slice of cake, necessary moments to go bonkers insane in the shadow of the rugged Front Range. Trails to stomp on. Roads to drive too fast on. Books to read for my final course. sponsored music festivals to jump and sway at in the inevitable May gloom. Papers to write. Books and clothes and a life to pack. Goodbyes to be said. Ouch ouch ouch. I sold my bed last week. My desk is next. Giving up possessions always sends my head on a spin. I’ve been sick as hell since Friday, but I swear, my gosh, I love these days. And I’m taking it as slowly as I can, trying to appreciate every fleeting breath of this thin clear air.
Insight from others helps calm the brain. Always.
“We are not all born at once, but by bits. The body first, and the spirit later… Our mothers are racked with the pains of our physical birth; we ourselves suffer the longer pains of our spiritual growth.”