Tuesday, 20 August 2013

In the End


It’s been a crazy, weird summer. I finished my Masters with my 4.0 intact and received a perfect score on my thesis. I suppose I should feel ecstatic right now. I set a goal, formulated a plan, and I completed said goal. However, I feel a little…empty.

For one, whenever I answer the dreaded question, “What did you get your degree in?” I’m met with blank stares and then the inevitable, “What are you doing to do with that?” I’ve found that replying with, “Who cares?” does not elicit a positive response. Truthfully, I have no idea what I will do aside from thinking critically and taking pride in the fact that I completed the degree that posed the most interest to me. Also, if you misquote classic literature, I can totally call your ass out on it.

I have another degree in the works because, why not? My inner masochist apparently enjoys learning new things and earning degrees, which is as good a hobby to have as any. I think the reason I feel a certain emptiness has more to do with the timing of my graduation than anything else.

In July, I experienced a death in the family. I’ve experienced the deaths of friends before, both from senseless violence and from the inevitability of being a veteran. I understand that we will all eventually die, and I’ve lost my youthful belief that I am somehow immortal. I don’t take as many risks as I used to take. I buckle my seatbelt, don’t smoke, and try to eat vegetables every now and then.

But in the end, we all die.

As I spoon-fed thickened cranberry juice into the mouth of a man who taught me so much about life, I couldn’t feel excited about another piece of paper framed on my wall. In the end, this man that I admired and thought was larger than life, slipped away from me.

I’ll always have my memories and the lessons I learned from him, but he’s gone from this world. I can’t pick up the phone and hear his voice. I can’t hold him. I can’t get irritated with him or love him in spite of it. It’s times like this that I wish I still believed that there was a magical place where we’ll all meet up and laugh about that one time I got a massive speeding ticket in Iowa.

This led me to many nights of tears and wondering about the purpose of this crazy thing we call life. My adventure partner summed it up pretty well during one of these dark times, saying that maybe it’s just to leave this place a little better than we found it.

This week, in a dark moment at work, I went into the cooler and cleaned out all of the dead flowers that never made it into arrangements. I emptied the muddied water, tossed out the wilted buds, and swept the floor clear of debris. I may only have two days left at this job, but the cooler is cleaner because I was here. Today, as I listened to the soft cries of a woman on the phone ordering flowers for her lost friend, I accepted that my role at that point was to pacify her pain for a few minutes.

I can’t change the world, I can’t bring back the ones that I love, and although I’m still crying right now, I know that if I can bring a moment of peace to someone who needs it, my work here is done. I end this post with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thoughts on success, if nothing else to prove that an MA in Humanities in useful:

Success

To laugh often and much
to win the respect of intelligent people
and affection of children; to earn the
appreciation of honest critics and
endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty, to find the best
in others; to leave the world a bit
better, whether by a healthy child
a garden patch or redeemed
social condition; to know even
one life has breathed easier because
you have lived. This is to have
succeeded.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson
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