>What have I been doing lately?

An (im)pertinent answer: I’ve been not thinking about the future.

Which is weird, because I think about the future all the time. I am always planning and scheming and making lists and worrying in this really abstracted way. But I’m not really thinking about it. Meaning, I am not thinking about how it will feel.

I am worried about where I will live, what I will do. I do not stop-have not stopped-to consider how I will feel.

About four years ago, I came to a similar natural “end point” in my life. And, you know, I died. From then to now…wow, I don’t think I’d recognize myself (and not just because I shaved my head and now it kind of looks like a mullet and oh wow sometimes this watch-and-wait tonsorial strategy is trying). Everything changed. I lost friends, made other ones. Everything scattered. And I knew it was coming, and I was so afraid.

My friend Nicky got a job downstate. We’ve been friends since I was fifteen. I have stolen bricks with her and laughed with her and cried with her and driven lots of places and danced and argued. In the mornings, we eat breakfast together and complain about the weather. And she’s going to go away.

And I don’t think about that. I don’t think about how entirely possible it is that all these people I love are going to drift from me. The fact that everything will be okay does nothing to remedy the certainty that everything will change. It’s all right to mourn a little for a period in your life (in my life). I have been very happy here. Whatever happens next, however wonderful it is (and it will be wonderful, goddammit! For all of us.) I will miss this.

But, you know, I’m really not scared. And I think this is another thing Clarion has done for me: it has taught me about loss and about permanence.

The nature of travel meant that the Clarion goodbye process was staggered across a day or so (interestingly, in my case, the very last person I said goodbye to was the first Clarion-voice I heard. It gave the whole thing a rather epic feeling). At first I was cheerful, hugging and smiling (and, periodically, a little drunk). There was an unreality to it. And then, a Clarion friend who was going back to his life in a place shockingly far away, told me goodbye and it all kind of crashed down on me. This would never, ever happen again. Already, this wonderful experience was dissolving, one loved one at a time. It brought me to grief.

Then I literally cried on the literal shoulder of another Clarion buddy who laughed and said “oh..oh…Nicole, what’s wrong?” I couldn’t answer him. Everything, I suppose. The critical lack of a pause button, I suppose (but, of course, if you could freeze the world, you’d only get some airless thing to keep. Things are only precious because they die.)

I had a hard time after Clarion for a lot of reasons, not the least of which because I simply missed it very much. I missed my friends, I missed that time in my life. And then, at some point between the meds and the self-actualization (ha!) I realized that…I wasn’t missing it anymore. Not because it had depreciated in value in some way, but because I hadn’t really left it behind. The physical reality of Clarion was done with, of course, but that was no reason to pack-up all those people, all those ideas and emotions, into a box labeled “Summer, Twenty-One.” Clarion could, if I let it, evolve with me.

I have all these friends, and none of them are friends I had. None of them are static. And though sometimes I want so badly to walk down to the common room and hear their voices and see their faces that it’s an actual-factual heartache, they are still mine and I am still theirs. Look at all these new ways to love I have discovered, across land and sea and through the air like radio waves. Why the fuck would I be scared?

“Are you freaking out about it? Or are you pretty cool?” I asked Nicky the other day.

She shrugged. “Pretty cool. I mean, I’m mostly used to being uprooted by now.”

But the truth of the matter is, we are not being uprooted: we are just learning to grow hydroponically.