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the eighty-ninth key

…to a body beauty and to a soul wisdom and to an action virtue and to speech truth, but their opposites are unbefitting.

Note: the following post is as scattered as its title, if not moreso. It was written in multiple iterations, mainly thumbtyping via my phone on the L during December finals, but I think its artlessness is probably best left alone.

As with many of my recently graduated peers, it seems that my first year(s) after undergrad have manifested their existence as an expanded existential crisis. And this makes sense.

The educational system in America, especially should one take the opportunity to pursue higher education, pops you in its mouth like your five year old self is a candy store jawbreaker, and spits you out approximately 13-17 years later. Mazel Tov. You now have- if you’re lucky- two pieces of multi-ply paper on which your name inscribed in cursive. And yet, aside from an odd middle school elective or two, education itself has taught you very little about functioning as a Capitol-A-Adult. There were no take home assignments on how to budget for groceries, manage gas and electric bills; how to properly use a non-stick skillet as to not damage the Teflon coating. No reports on how to be an informed voter, no pop quiz on how to iron a dress shirt starting from the back pleats, no multiple choice test on with what regularity you should be bathing/shaving/dusting the ceiling fan blades/purchasing new shoes/throwing out the onion in your fridge.

So, you soggy little jawbreaker. You are worn down a little extra on the left side where education stuck you in its cheek. Your stripes show in a thumbprint of endurance, achievement, and recklessness. And now life takes you on like a game show contestant and most tasks that you assumed came naturally to the species known as ‘Grown-Up’ are now a Russian Roulette of trial and error. You get a day job, or a night job, maybe both. You are likely underpaid. Paychecks are simultaneously disappointingly inadequate and inspiring of the elation you’d get a decade ago from a bag of arcade tokens.

And yet I, for one, am learning what a misguided hope it is to think that more education offers any reprieve from this anxiety. With a complete absence of structure, a sincere drop in positive reinforcement, and a resounding lack of normative behavior, Graduate School is a glorified summer camp. You sign yourself up for a few hours a week of activities at a time, read books in dusty, unfamiliar buildings; you forge awkward friendships by circumstance, and try to look occupied whenever anyone makes contact with you. There is an observable lack of campfire songs, but otherwise, much of the social cues are indistinguishable from when you were twelve and had to pretend you knew how to canoe. Except with more namedropping of dead white men.

I am self-aware that stylistically, for the sake of a need of catharsis in diary posts, and out of habit from listening to many Lutheran sermons in my life, I am prone to ending posts with a hopefulness. But this one needs time. This process is still being written and I know not what to make of these Odyssey years, other than many cups of tea.

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