In an unprecedented turn of events, my life has come together in a way even LaToya Jackson and her psychic friends couldn’t predict. The last few months have been anxiety-ridden due to my looming graduation from the College of Charleston and indecision about graduate school.
As of a few weeks ago, I’d been accepted to only one school on the West Coast, meaning I’d be heading to a masters program where I didn’t know anyone, to a state that I’d never been to, and leaving my support system in the Southeast. I was acting like a badass about the whole thing, of course, telling people that moving across the country was the only way I’d really grow as a writer and human being. I was terrified.
Then, an incredible poet whom I respect to the same degree that my little sister respects L.C. was a guest speaker in one of my poetry workshops. He also happens to be the director of the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University, another school to which I applied. You can see where this is heading. He and I spoke at length about writing and found that we share a love of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. But I was disheartened not to have heard from VCU about admissions, because working with this guy would have been any poet’s wet dream. The end of the story is this: I was accepted to the program, in person, and offered a teaching assistantship that waives tuition and even pays!
Every worry I’d had in the past few months was ghost like Swayze. Not only am I going to pursue my masters in beautiful Richmond, but I’m also spending the summer at a writing workshop in Prague, another program to which I’ve received a scholarship. I’ve spent four years wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do once I walk across the Cistern. Now I know, and it’s so calming, yet exhilarating.
But, bombarded by images of sobbing coeds in Blacksburg for the past week, I’ve been fully saturated with the sobering tonic of tragedy. The juxtaposition of my life’s immediate coming together and this sudden loss is poetic. The coming months will be some of the most joyous and adventurous of my life, and I plan to do right by those Hokies by voraciously consuming anything that will enrich me and lead me toward a more perfect version of myself. (You can thank the Dalai Lama for that gem.)
In the midst of way too much CNN, I also happened to catch the end of United 93 this week, a movie I vowed never to watch because I knew I’d end up crying and waking my mother with an impromptu “just called to say I love you.” I prefer not to revel in the cliché, but that is, embarrassingly, exactly what happened. Don’t worry, I immediately did 30 one-armed push-ups while listening to the new Nine Inch Nails album to offset my weepy moment.
When faced with national heartbreak, we ask ourselves, “What the hell are we supposed to do about this?” Charles Bukowski said, “Sexual intercourse is kicking death in the ass while singing,” and isn’t that what we all need right now? I’m not saying everyone should run out and hook up with the nearest stranger, just that you should embrace what makes you feel joyous. Why not tap an extra keg this weekend, take a run, eat a calorie-laden meal, see a concert, kiss someone on the mouth, whatever?
When senseless death is shoved in our faces, it’s time to experience life in its purest form: joy. Nothing we do can bring back those students and professors, the soldiers killed in Iraq, or the thousands lost in New York City, Thailand, and the Gulf Coast. The only thing that can comfort the people that lost them is love itself. So, much like the billboards that read, “Go to the church of your choice this Sunday, but please, go to church,” I’m urging everyone to be joyous in whichever way you choose. Be loving. You’re alive, now go feel it.