autumn

In the blink of an eye, December. And nearly the end of a particularly warm December, at that. Time will play its tricks, but the acceleration whose tug I’ve been feeling the past year or two is only growing more acute. I’m through with the first quarter of freshmen year, and have hardly a written word to show for it. I don’t write things down here anymore, but rather dump them into letters and conversations repeatedly until they are sufficiently washed from my system. But I have been promising myself I would. Writing without an audience allows me to focus less, somehow, and the unexpected can come out. Or, alternatively, a lack of an audience means I needn’t make myself understood.

So, then, what have I got to show for myself for an autumn’s absence? A good deal of boredom, good grades and a thorough disinterest in everything I’ve studied, some new friends, some lost ones, a few good experiences, a few good stories, and mostly the overwhelming sensation that I am missing something. I thought having nothing but time on my hands would ease the feeling of panicky urgency that’s been dogging me for over a year now, but not so. I still feel like my life’s slipping through my fingers. In eight months I will no longer be a teenager, a fact I am loath to face. In less time than that I will no longer be a freshman in college, and in some ways will have lost my last chances at the frenzied childhood fantasies I have for myself.

I look at my life and am surprised. I look at myself in the mirror and am not unpleased but simply a bit startled at how I’ve changed, at how much older I have become without knowing it. I look at photographs taken only a couple years ago and think about how long ago that was. This is a constant process, and I am not so foolish as to count myself truly ancient or anything so absurd. We are forever startled by our own age, because we never feel nearly as mature as we thought we would by now. But I’m still surprised, nonetheless, at the course my life has taken. I feel a bit like I floated through the first weeks of the quarter, aloft on the initial giddiness and then nearly shell-shocked by changes going on in my patterns of living and studying and eating and breathing.

I had looked to this time for the peak of all that I associate with foolish youth: hard work and hard play; some poor decisions and some better ones, intoxicated by a heady infusion of chemicals and indiscretion, by our own intelligence and beauty; long hedonistic nights and enlightening days; brilliant discussion and aimless chatter. I am greedy for things I can’t even enumerate. Life’s bound to disappoint if these are the expectations, but I still can’t help but feel a bit disillusioned. I can’t say that I’m bored, per se, but just not nearly as fascinated with my own existence as I would have hoped.

Then again, I can hardly complain. There are still days when I feel the glory of simply being alive, whether it’s cruising down Palm Drive towards the Quad in the brilliant sunshine that marks the end of autumn or spending a particularly successful night trying to go crazy with my dormmates. I have spent lazy afternoons on the San Francisco Bay, late nights studying that paid off just as I had hoped, evenings shouting stories across empty bottles, and on and on. But not with the frequency or ease that I had expected. This quarter, while basically fine in every respect, was exceptional and thrilling in few.

But it is useless to simply muse upon my own self-declared boredom and do nothing about it. If I want an interesting conversation I should start it, and if I want to go out I should simply do so, and so on and so forth. And I have begun to do so, once I steadied myself. The last few weeks of school were actually pretty excellent. I am hoping this trend will continue.

And in the meantime, here I am at home in the comforting Midwest, once again. Except I can’t help but feel a bit idle and restless here as well, because somehow I’m doing nothing. Thanksgiving break was a blur of activity; I came back to school exhausted from the busy week. But this week I’ve done next to nothing except sit around the house and work on some projects or read. I don’t know what all my friends are occupied with. It actually really makes me miss school, where I am never actually bored (the boredom I describe above is more broad; I always have something to do and someone to talk to, which is wonderful and shouldn’t be discounted) because I can just walk down the hall and then someone will be there. Here I just lie on the couch and ponder my own condition. I’m not sure this is particularly healthy or helpful. I certainly have relaxed this week, though.

As I write this I’m listening to the Decemberists’ brilliant new album The Crane Wife, which I highly recommend to anyone who can hear.

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