I recently graduated from university. Woah. I mean, it’s been a few months now but sometimes I still get stopped in my tracks (mentally and physically) trying to process that fact. After 18 years of school, give or take, this is the first September that I didn’t have a back-to-school to prepare for and look forward to. While so many of my friends were headed back to their apartments and their clubs and their lives I was staying still, in my parents’ house which feels a little less like home than it used to. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about school and my friends that are still there and my friends from there that are scattered about the country. I miss them. I miss my apartment, my town, my school. I miss classes and I really, really miss the theatre. The pictures and videos that flood social media make me feel at once happy, to see familiar faces doing familiar things, and sad, that I’m not there to experience with them. But as the weeks have worn on, it’s died down from a roaring fire to a dull glow. And it’s been these last few weeks of work that have made me realize why.

I’d like to preface this realization by saying I love my job. I really do. I’m a baker and, no, it has nothing to do with my education but I have always baked as a hobby and now I get to do it everyday. I don’t particularly like mornings but because I enjoy my job, getting up at 3:30am to go to work doesn’t really phase me. But as I was getting to know my new co-workers the obvious icebreaker question was “How long have you been here.”

One girl said “A year and a half.”

And I thought, “Man, that’s a long time.”

Really, when you think about it, a year and a half at a job really makes you quite green; it’s not at all a long time. But to me, who has never had a full time job before, it seemed long. And then one day I was talking to my manager and I asked her how long she had been with the company.

And she said “Five years!”

And I thought, “Damn.”

I realized in that moment that the thought of going to the same job and doing the same thing and being with the same people everyday for five years, truth be told even a single year, is unbearable to me. Even in a job like mine, where it’s different everyday and I like what I do and I like the people I work with, the thought of being in the same place, doing the same thing this time next year terrifies me and makes me feel extremely trapped. And five years? Forget it! In all likelihood, I will, in fact, still be at the same job a year from now (and I’m okay with that) but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make me feel paralyzed to my very core.

There’s a line in a song that plays all the time while I drive that goes “I’m a wanderer and a wanderer I’ll always be.” I’ve always liked the line, it’s usually the only line from the song that gets stuck in my head but I never knew why until this experience at work. I guess it feels almost autobiographical, in a sense. I crave new things. When I’m in one place for too long, I get restless and depressed. The longest I’ve stayed in one place since I graduated high school is just over six months and that’s the way I, apparently, like it. It’s a huge part, too, of why I love theatre. It’s never permanent. No matter what, it’s over in six weeks. If it’s a horrible show, well, it’s over and people will forget about it. (Or they’ll remember how horrible it was but at least it’s over!) And if it’s brilliant? It’s still over in six weeks and everyone that was a part of it and everyone that saw it gets this unique feeling knowing they were apart of something special. Even if you go back to the same show or the same character at a different time it’s still a completely different experience than it was the first time. You get to live in different countries and eras for a short, intense period of time and then, you say goodbye and move on.

And to tie this all back to the beginning here, I think that’s why the dull ache has settled in. I’ve gotten really close to a lot of people and places over the years but in the end I’ve had to move on from all of them. And I don’t mean move on in the sense that they are out of sight, out of mind. I just mean that they are somewhere and I am somewhere else. They are still important parts of my life, and I’m lucky to live in the age of technology where I get to stay in contact with those people and see pictures of those places, but they are one part of my life and I live in another part. It’s just the way it is. And so even though I’m sad about not being at school anymore, I also know that I probably wouldn’t want to be there if I was because it was time to move on. It’s hard to picture the future and not know where I’ll be. In fact, it terrifies me almost as much, maybe even more, than picturing the future and seeing myself in the same place next year but there’s a reason I chose the field I did and that’s because given the choice, I’d rather choose the terrifying that’s exciting rather than the one that’s not. And honestly, I did not know this about myself a month ago but luckily, as the great J.R.R. Tolkien wisely reminds us, not all who wander are lost and not all that is over is past.

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