As usual, when life gets too stressful to handle (or too hectic or too mundane or a lot of other things), I turn to my favorite books to cope: Harry Potter. For me, it’s like hanging out with an old friend, but my stories about books can wait for another time.
Since I read Harry Potter while I was in London, I’ve read all seven books at least once a semester, sometimes twice, and always over the summer. As graduation was a stressful time, happy, of course, but stressful too, I naturally turned to my old friends to get me through the sleepless nights. Last week, I finished reading them.
Every time I read them, I find something newly applicable to the world. Something that was there before but didn’t really click until now. I’ve read all these words many times, but every time, something different sticks.
This time, it was a quote from Kingsley in the Deathly Hollows.
[Here come some spoilers.]
So in this scene, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are on the run and they finally manage to tune into Potterwatch, the illegal, underground radio station dedicated to telling the news like it is and encouraging people to do what is good and right. All the people involved have code names, because who wants to go to Azkaban, right. Kingsley is called Royal and he’s encouraging the wizarding community to protect Muggles (non-wizards) in addition to each other. So here comes the scene, straight out of the book:
“What would you say, Royal, to those listeners who reply that in these dangerous times, it should be ‘Wizards first’?” asked Lee.
“I’d say that it’s one short step from ‘Wizards first’ to ‘Purebloods first’ and then to ‘Death Eaters,'” replied Kingsley. “We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”
In light of what happened in Orlando, and what seems to keep happening around the world, I pose the same question. We’re all human, aren’t we? I don’t understand why bad things happen. It doesn’t make sense to me. But I do see the outpouring of love and support and I have faith that love and goodness will have to win.
We are all human, plain and simple. In times of great joy we should celebrate with each other and in times of tragedy we should mourn and support each other.
My prayers and those of so many others are with the families of those involved in the tragedy in Orlando. Additionally, I’m thinking of and praying for the first responders and people of Orlando as they struggle to understand the senselessness of this act.
As I sit here tonight, knowing in less than 48 hours I will walk the stage, I look around my room and can’t help but laugh. It’s a disaster and my dad will be here tomorrow to help me move and I couldn’t even bring myself to start packing today. I couldn’t even start the tidying-up process. I have shoes and clothes everywhere. I didn’t do laundry yet. My kitchen isn’t clean. There’s paperwork all over my table that needs to be sorted through (and probably thrown away). And it occurs to me that as silly as it is, maybe I didn’t do any of those things today because I don’t feel like I’m ready to leave.
I’ve spent the last four years living on this campus. I spent the last four semesters in this apartment. This has been the place I’ve called home for the better part of four years. And tomorrow (or today, because it’s the crazy late middle of the night) I’m moving most of my stuff into a new home.
This week didn’t go like I planned. Today didn’t go like I planned. Like the rest of life, the last four years have come with their own set of trials and tribulations, but it definitely wasn’t bad.
This week I was talking to a friend, a guy I met in College Algebra freshman year many, many moons ago, and we were laughing about the crazy professor we had. The stories he told us, in the middle of his sentence explaining the math problems. The random ramblings of a crazy man who stuck a wrench in a freezer at Walmart. And we laughed. Hard. I remember how much I hated that class because I was so bored and it was at 8 a.m. and no one wants to do math, even if they are good at it, at 8 a.m. But he was right when he told me I’d miss those days.
In four years, I’ve grown. I’ve grown to make mistakes and learn from them (or in some cases, just learned how to better deal with making the same mistake over and over again; it’s part of my charm). I’ve grown from a goofy high school kid to a goofy almost grown up. I’ve grown to learn that sometimes you just need to call it good for the night and try again after sleep. And I’ve grown to learn that my decisions are my own.
UMHB, the campus, my apartment, has been a home for four years. And now I’m ready to make a new place a home. But before that, tonight and tomorrow, I get to feel nostalgia for the memories I made and the friends I shared them with.
It occurred to me last night that I am not only into single digit class days, but I only had to attend three more classes before graduation. I can count those on my fingers. That’s how close to graduation I am. And then this morning I went to one of those classes. So now, I’m down to two.
Graduation is terrifyingly close, but it’s so exciting at the same time. And then I wonder what happened to my college years. Where did they go?
Four years ago, I was preparing to graduate high school. I was thrilled to begin college. I was ready to be done with petty high school drama. I was nervous, of course, because college was a totally different beast, but this is what I spent 12 years of school preparing for. I was ready.
Three years ago, I wondered where my freshman year went. I was thrilled to begin my summer vacation a month earlier than my family. I was ready to live, if only for a semester, with my best friend. I was nervous about the prospect of studying in London six months later, but I was ready. I just did a whole year of college on my own. Could three months in London really be that different? I was ready.
Two years ago, I came home from London, changed for the better. I officially decided to declare my major. I was thrilled to come back to a job I loved in the fall. I was entering the second half of my college career with no idea what my plans were, but that didn’t phase me. Life was going to sort itself out and I would be ready.
One year ago, I realized I needed to start figuring things out (like getting a driver’s license) so I could get things together in terms of internships to graduate because all of a sudden, graduation looked much closer than it had. So I spent the summer working on that because that was step one and I wanted to be ready when fall came.
Half a year ago, still without a driver’s license, I was pretending everything was fine. Graduation is still a long time away. Plus, there were only nine hours left to complete my degree. I’d take those, I’d do my three internships, it would all work out fine and I would be ready.
And today. Today, it did work out fine. I am taking the nine remaining hours and I am almost done with my internships. But today, I also wonder where the last four years went, because I don’t feel ready.
Real grown-ups always talk about how life just passes you by if you let it. They talk about enjoying every day. When you’re a kid, you don’t really understand. Every day seems like a lifetime. And then you start college (and enter a time warp) and all of a sudden you get it. All of a sudden, the years just pass you by. One day it’s January and the next it’s April. And you’ve blinked, and there goes college.
Every semester, when we get to finals week, I’m always ready to go home. Because that means I can sleep and hang around the house and not shower for days (I’ll admit it; I’m not ashamed. Showers are hard.). And this semester was no different. It came to finals and I was ready to go home (in reality I was ready before our coach tour, but it was worse last week). I just wanted to skip these last two weeks and be on a plane home. Fast forward. Bam! Home!
Well, on Monday, I finished my finals. And all of a sudden, at 10 AM, it hit me. I didn’t wanna go home nearly as badly as I had about two hours ago. And then I realized that I equated being home with being done and I just hate finals (who doesn’t?). And now I’m very sad to be leaving.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited to eat Mexican food and meat that doesn’t scare me and see my family and sleep for a week, but I really am gonna miss this place.
It’s beautiful here. And it’s unique.
I’m going to miss walking through the park on my way to class.
I’m going to miss the sandwiches in the grocery stores.
I’m going to miss the adventure.
I was mistaken. I’m ready to go home, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to this wonderful place and all it has to offer. But don’t worry, London, I’ll be back.
I did learn, however, that I need to stop rushing the end of my semesters. They really are the best days and I need to enjoy every second I’ve got. So, tomorrow, I’m enjoying every minute. And I can’t wait!
Last night we went to see Wicked as our “end of semester treat.” And this week marks a lot of lasts. We had our last art class. We took our theater final. Our semester is quickly winding down.
And this semester has taught me a lot. I mean, I learned about London and its history (more than I like, if we’re being honest). I learned about Children’s Literature. I learned about Art and Theater. But I really learned about life.
I learned about the unfamiliar. I learned to cope with living with 5 other girls. I learned about grocery shopping. I learned about a different way of life.
And I met some of the most wonderful people on the way.
At graduation, 2 years ago, a few girls sang this song. And I had never seen Wicked, so I never really had a context for this song. Lemme give you some context. In the musical, Elphaba meets Glinda and they are stuck as roommates. They eventually become best friends and this song a duet is near the end of the show, when they have gotten over their differences and are parting ways forever. So, woah, go graduation. Good choice, ladies.
But, in context of this semester, I know I have made a few really close, really strong relationships. And I also know I will never see most of these people again. And for some of them, that’s not such a bad thing. I know it isn’t going to be bad for me to never see them again. They taught me what they needed to teach me, and that’s that.
I think it’s valuable to learn that. Sometimes, you just have to let people go, because they weren’t meant to be in your life forever. And if you learn what you were supposed to from them, they never really leave, because your relationship with them was fruitful.
My flatmates taught me so much. They taught me patience (which is going to be an ongoing lesson, for a long time; but they did help it along). They taught me to bite my tongue. They taught me the value of communicating. And that sometimes, you just have to walk away and cool off, all of which I knew, but needed to practice.
My roommates taught me to be confident when I get dressed up. And apparently it is okay for me to wear a mini-skirt and not look like an idiot. Not that I think I’ll be wearing them a whole lot. But apparently I can dress cute and not look dumb. And also, Ali was apparently right, and you have to wear mascara with eyeliner or your face doesn’t look right.
In addition, if nothing else, they taught me I don’t ever want to live the 5 people to whom I have no relation. 2 other people is a stretch. Not 5. Ever again.
My teachers taught me a bunch of things. Dr. Romig taught me about understanding Children’s books. And reminded me how much I love to read. I forgot how important it was to me because I was always so busy, that if I was reading, I knew I should have been reading a textbook, and Sneaky Gabi got around that by just not reading. She reminded me that reading is good for me and reading fixes my life.
Ian’s Theater class reminded me how much I love theater. I love the fun of it. I love watching it. And I need to do something with that when I get home. And I learned I can appreciate a show without loving it. And he taught us to express our opinions, which is not a thing we are frequently taught. He taught us that just because your opinion “might be rubbish, it’s your rubbish” and we need to be proud of that.
The Holcombs introduced me to all kinds of new foods I had no idea I liked, because I was so sure I didn’t like them. Uhm, hello. Try new food. You won’t always like it (fish and chips) but you might be pleasantly surprised (Thai food). And Mrs. Dr. Holcomb gave me some pointers for studying, because that is a skill I am still honing.
My new friends reinforced my feelings about family dinners (which have always been a big thing in my family). That needs to be a thing for me, always. That’s a deal-breaker. We need to eat together, and talk. Not just eat in front of a movie or show or a phone. Dinner is a good time to socialize. But don’t talk to me with a mouthful of food, because that’s gross. And I learned all kinds of new games for a night in. That’s been wonderful.
And I learned how much my parents taught me, how much they instilled in me: good manners; intelligence; common sense. You don’t show up to someone’s house to eat without something to contribute. You always offer to help with the dishes, even if no one else does. You say please and thank you. If you go to someone’s house and they serve you something you’ve never had, you try it and pretend to like it, even if you don’t; you can always get something when you get home. You look both ways, twice when you cross the street. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t be a space cadet.
So, to everyone who had a hand in my education, formal or informal, I thank you. I do believe I have changed for the better. I have grown this semester (though not physically, because some of us haven’t grown since 7th grade). Thank you. And if this is good bye, good luck.
…You don’t make eye contact with people on the street
Here, that is not a thing. You mind your own business. Plus, if you make eye contact with the street vendors, they might try to sell you things, and you have somewhere to be. No thanks.
…You’ve been asked for directions, and can give them
We must have this look like we know what we’re doing.
…You know which line on the Tube to use without consulting a map
Wanna go to St. Paul’s? That’s the Central Line.
Wanna go to Covent Gardens? That’s the Piccadilly Line. And you may or may not stop there, depending on the direction you’re going. You might have to go to Leicester Square and walk.
Also, the Bakerloo and Northern lines don’t currently stop at Embankment because of work they’re doing on the station.
…Crossing the street is no longer a frightening prospect
We don’t even have to look at the arrows anymore. And, we know how to read the patterns of traffic. Watch those blinkers! (They don’t always use them before they turn).
…You learned to use the maps on the bus stops
They don’t label every stop on every route. And they don’t always stop at every stop. Make sure you’re paying attention and push the button, just in case.
…You learned sometimes the bus is faster than a Tube
Don’t try to take the Tube to Waterloo station from Holborn, you’ll be walking extra. Instead, take one of the at least four buses that stops there. They stop right at the entrance.
…You found the buses are nicer than the Tube if you have the time
London is beautiful if you aren’t surrounded by cement. And you don’t have to walk down any stairs to get to the bus.
…Squeezing onto the Tube at rush hour is no big feat
You move down into the car. You use all available doors. And most importantly, you let people get off the car before you try boarding.
…You know the peak times of the Tube
9ish in the morning is a bad time to travel, as is 5-7ish. Also, don’t expect a seat around lunch time.
…You have the thought “oh, those Americans,” before you realize that used to be you
We were coming home from Richmond last week and there was group of students, much like ourselves, who were being loud. We could hear them from the other end of the car. That used to be us. It isn’t so much anymore.
…You say “sorry” instead of “excuse me” when you run into someone or need them to move
I’ve also heard “cheers.” “Sorry” is the one I use.
…You know you either walk and drink your coffee, or you wait; don’t hold up the people behind you
I do not walk and drink, I would spill coffee down the front of my shirt. I wait until I have stopped moving, like on the escalator or at a Tube stop to take a sip.
…You watch movies and think, “been there, done that”
…You also know what else is going on outside the frame of pictures
Shakespeare’s globe is on the other side of Millennium Bridge.
The Houses of Parliament are next to Big Ben.
…The constant noise of the city doesn’t phase you
Listening to people walk by my window is even entertaining sometimes. Sirens and car horns don’t even keep me up anymore.
…The loud silence on the tube is not a thing you feel like you need to fill
There’s this odd silence on the Tube. No one talks.
We used to talk on our way places. Now, it’s almost like conversation ceases when we board. All you hear is the Tube rushing through the tunnels and maybe the wind whistling through the windows.
…There’s a certain level of organized chaos that goes with all public places
I spent yesterday morning in Camden Market. While I was alone, it was interesting to see people interacting with each other: vendors with customers, parents with their children, friends, couples. It was interesting.
…The prospect of the Bank/Monument tube stop walk, while dreadful, is no longer foreboding
It’s a long walk, but sometimes it must be done.
…You know you stand on the right side of the escalator and walk on the left, period
There are signs everywhere. And you do not want to get in someone’s way.
…You know bicyclists don’t follow all the rules of drivers or pedestrians
Sometimes, they get off, walk their bike across the street, and get back on and keep riding. Sometimes they don’t stop at the light. You’ve gotta keep a pretty close eye on them.
…Awareness of your surroundings is key
Don’t get run over by a bus because you were watching for bikes in the wrong directions. Also, just being aware of who is around you is good. Don’t let that creepy guy catch you unawares.
…You expect to visit the grocery store again in about 3 days’ time, if not less
Seriously. Things here will spoil in that amount of time, especially the fruits and vegetables. If you don’t really need it today, wait.
…You know which side of the road to stand on to get on the bus
Which way did you come from, which way do you need to go?
…You recognize the landmarks they use on the bus stops
Toward St. Paul’s? Know where that is in relation to my flat. Toward Holborn? That’s near home. Toward Aldwych? I can get us home from there.
…You know you have to ask for the check, or you’ll be sitting a while
Servers will clear your table and still not bring you the check. Ask. Or you’ll be late. On the upside, I’ve never felt like they were rushing me out the door.
…You know you don’t call a taxi; it’s cheaper to get on the bus
Taxi’s are the most expensive way to travel. Besides, a little walking is probably good for you.
…You live in a flat, not an apartment
And apparently not a house, as everyone keeps reminding me. Whatever.
…Seeing people in full business suits is not strange
That’s a perfectly expected way to get to work. So, nice shoes, nice clothes, on a bike.
…Topping up your Oyster Card is different from renewing it
They made it very clear. We needed to renew them because topping them up was just going to add money to them which would then be deducted every time we used it. Not what we wanted from the world.
…You regularly offer people a “cuppa tea” when they come over
But really. We’re all studying? “Anyone want some tea?” All stressed out? “Can I get you a cup of tea?” Just had dinner? “Would you like some tea?” I’m bored. “I’m making tea for myself. Anyone else want some?”
…Movies all of sudden start making even more sense
The uniforms in Harry Potter are standard issue for the schools here, except for the pointed hats; here, they wear top hats.
…Accents are not a thing you notice anymore
It’s gotten harder for me to be able to tell if someone has an accent. I’ve just gotten used to the British accents, and all the other accents, too.
This week, Colten was diagnosed with Leukemia. And all of a sudden, there were much bigger things to deal with than finals. They just didn’t seem as important. Now, don’t be confused. I still studied and did well. No worries there. But it just seemed miniscule as compared to cancer.
This reminded me that the most important thing in life isn’t the right letter on a piece of paper or even the piece of paper I’ll get at the end of four years. Suddenly, making sure Colten was okay, making sure that Colten had every chance to get better, was more important.
And it illustrated the importance of prayer.
There was nothing I could do from here. Nothing I could bring him and no way for me to fix it. Nothing to make it less scary for him. Nothing to say to comfort him. Nothing but sitting here and praying, because God’s got it. It’s covered. And things are going to work out okay.
That helped me get through this week. Knowing that even though praying was all I could do, I was doing it. And then I remembered that Colten wouldn’t want me to do poorly because I was worrying about him. So kept him in my thoughts and kept doing well.