Today at work, when I was buried ass to eyeballs in files and notes and paperwork (with nary a book in sight), a random realization came to me: fourteen years ago today, I came to Bloomington, Indiana for the first time as an adult.
That's a rather silly sort of anniversary, isn't it? 14 years. Not that it's a decade or 25 years or anything like that; not it's not that I moved to Bloomington just then; not even that it was my first time in Bloomington. But for whatever reason, this happy little anniversary stands out to me.
It was a whirlwind trip, that trip--I flew in early on a Friday morning, giddy from a lack of sleep, and was back in Florida by Sunday night. But oh, I packed so much into those few days--I explored, I secured housing for myself, I wished graduating students well as they posed with their parents for pictures in front of the Sample Gates, I met a fellow that I would soon fall madly in love with; I listened to Irish music at a co-op cafe, I got re-acquainted with my uncle and his girlfriend; I met up with some Internet acquaintances for an early-evening picnic in an enchanting park, and together we tortured a Peep and a Peter Pan doll.
And I saw spring. A real, proper spring, with green everywhere. Sure, I knew green--the dusky, darker green of the palms and pines and scrubby brush of Florida. But this was a green that I had never encountered...a vivid, lush, almost painfully bright green. It was a green that seemed to flaunt itself, like it knew that it was in the rudest of health, and it was boasting of it. Oh, it was green.
But nothing was as green as I was.
Fourteen years later...My uncle's girlfriend is now my aunt. Those students that I wished well are now 14 years older, and while I never learned their names or even the first thing about them, other than they had proud parents, I still think of them and hope their parents are still proud, and that they remember their university years with joy. The fellow that I met and fell madly in love with...well, ours is a goofy sort of story, but we are still characters in each other's tale. The little co-op cafe is no more, and most of the folks I met for the picnic have moved on to different places, different partners. That enchanting park is still there, is a place I drive past all the time, is a place I still love to go.
And me? What of me?
I wanted different things then-- my vision was a bit more limited, I think. I wanted to do well in grad school, make good grades; marriage and family and career and everything Beyond Grad School were just abstracts. Research papers and projects and stultifying reading assignments loomed large, and I don't think I saw much past that. If the me of fourteen years ago met the me of now, I think we would--at best--cordially dislike each other. The battles that mattered to me at 24, I quite often can't be bothered to give a damn about at 37. Weirdly, I want more from life and expect more from myself now than I did fourteen years ago, but I'm a happier person, all the same.
Who's to say that happiness will last? Green springs swell with life and hope...and give way to fruit and death and fallow times, and god knows I've seen plenty of those in the fourteen years that have lapsed. There will be more fruitless and fallow times ahead in my life--hell, I just exited one--and perhaps in another fourteen years, I will look back on this green-and-gold spring evening and shake my head over who I am now.
"Get out of your own head," Older Indy Grrl might say, "Get off your ass and sit outside in this gentle twilight you're writing about and see the spring beauty while you can."
And yet here I am, still typing.
Maybe I'm not so different than I was, after all.
But I'm kind of curious about what happened to that Peter Pan doll.