In times of sadness, darkness and confusion, I often cling to the comforting words of my favorite author, Cheryl Strayed. Her book “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” (2012) is my own personal bible, and I found myself skimming through it nearly every day of the week of March 9, when I found out I only had a few days to say goodbye to Tufts and my college experience as I knew it.
To say that was the hardest and strangest week of my life is an understatement of the highest degree. I thought I had two more months to start letting go of my college years, two more months to brace myself for The Real World™, two more months to find a way to say goodbye to the place I’ve called home for four years. I was forced to uproot my life, move out of my dorm and cram two months’ worth of goodbyes and “lasts” in 72 hours.
It was emotionally and mentally taxing, but also kind of beautiful, because nothing else mattered to me in those 72 hours. Not schoolwork, not job applications, not anything else: It was all about telling the people at Tufts whom I love that I love them, that I’ll miss them dearly and that they’ll always take up such an enormous part of my heart.
Even now in quarantine, I don’t wake up stressed about any of the trivial worries that normally riddled my 21-year-old life. I wake up wanting to hug my loved ones, to hold my mother’s hand and to hug my father. I wake up wanting to sprint back to campus, to sit on my best friends’ porch and talk about life and love and all of the risks we hope we’ll take someday. I wake up wanting to have one more day at Tufts, one more day to get an oat milk latte from the Rez and sit on Tisch Roof and think about “High School Musical 3” (2008) and what it means to let go. None of these things are currently within reach: They are the tiny, beautiful things I’ve taken for granted.
Like everyone else, I’m still trying to make sense of all that’s happened, trying to find ways to make peace with the cards I’ve been dealt. I don’t know if I’ll ever find the clarity and closure that I long for. But here’s what I do know:
- A thing I love was taken away from me much too soon.
- I am lucky to have loved something so much, and, in the words of Winnie the Pooh, to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
- This column was supposed to be a way for me to slowly say goodbye to and express my gratitude for Tufts, my college experience and the friends I found along the way.
- This column can still be all of those things, despite the new reality I find myself in.
In re-reading “Tiny Beautiful Things,” I found a quote that I had underlined the first time I read it: “Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here.”
This whole experience — one riddled with loss, grief and seemingly endless goodbyes — has absolutely gutted me. But it’s also opened me up in ways that I hadn’t been before: I find myself reaching almost constantly in the direction of love, connection, gratitude and for those tiny, beautiful moments that make up a good life.
I guess the rest starts here.