To this year’s graduating classes, shaking hands with deans and principals, crying with friends you swear to never forget, perched on the precipice of discovery: Here’s what no one tells you.
Life is pretty boring.
This isn’t the typical wisdom of speeches packed with positive and negative terminals, mistakes and triumphs. Sure, the highs and lows are real. You will love wildly and grind someone’s heart through a blender, maybe your own. You’ll have jobs you hate and jobs you like and maybe jobs you love. Perhaps you’ll welcome screaming infants into the world, racking up those fat, breathless moments the speeches promise like a yellow puppy in a holiday gift box.
You will also have a pair of saggy, ancient sneakers with a singular purpose: climbing on the roof three times a year to blow mud and leaves out of gutters. Not in a fun, euphemistic way.
You will load your bills into an Excel spreadsheet with notes that read, “Charged directly to Capital One, but can get 3x points via Chase Southwest, should transfer?”
You’ll think, “I can’t remember the last time I cleaned the counter behind the toaster,” and you’ll clean the counter behind the toaster.
You’ll glimpse a pinhole of elation when coffee goes on BOGO. You’ll be tempted by the BOGO granola bars, too, but remember you already have granola bars at the house.
You’ll Google: Chicken thigh slow cooker. Weird rattle air conditioner. Rash on arms detergent. Escrow what is. Expiration date hummus real? Smell in carpet.
You’ll say things like, “The commute isn’t so bad as long as I leave before rush hour and have a podcast.” You’ll say this at a party. Speaking of, you will attend a dozen parties you’ll remember and 200 you’ll forget.
You might visit the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China, or pose before the Taj Mahal, but more likely, you’ll have a favorite parking space at a Firehouse Subs, one with easy access to exit at the light. You will feel an abiding comfort while sitting in this space, and you won’t be able to explain why. This space is true and real.
You’ll have a favorite burner on the stove, too, a mug, a pair of socks, a brand of turkey, a gas station, a spoon. You will have a favorite spoon! Not too small, not too big, smooth texture, substantial in the hand.
You’ll lose touch with people, and you won’t understand why. No one did anything. Maybe that’s why.
You’ll miss the magic you once felt at holidays. These pageants will feel like work, expensive, laden with tinsel and emotional labor. That loss will be painful at first. Eventually, though, you’ll understand that magic is a limited resource, that it must flow to others. That exchange is its own kind of magic.
You’ll realize that the mundane moments aren’t the antithesis of dreams but the backbone. Because one day, while you’re folding the same basket of sweatpants you fold every week, considering the people and trinkets and music you’ve patched into your life while searching for the positive terminals, you might feel a different kind of wonder.
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The thrills are only stitches in the fabric, holding together repetitive, endless reams of ordinary beauty. You’ll put the socks in your favorite drawer, stand before the fridge eating a handful of your favorite shredded fiesta cheese, plop down on your favorite side of your favorite sofa, pull your favorite pillow over your lap the way you have a thousand times, and you will just be.
Isn’t that something?
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