Call me Ishmael.
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
It is high time for me to get to sea.
In August I returned to a city I adore and call my home, but at the same time to a place I no longer feel I fully belong. I had no idea what a difference nine months away, and a few fewer friends in the city could make. Perhaps most difficult, has been the unsettling feeling of returning to an experience that I ought already to be finished with. It is the exhausting feeling that I’m merely going through the motions or paying my last dues. I find that the work I do here is no longer needed and in many cases no longer valued. I no longer love what I’m doing, in the same way I used to. This has left me with a deep sense of futility about being here, and little sense of fulfillment. It has also left me wanting to knock a few hats, indeed. That is a startling and personally gut-wrenching contrast to the last three years I’ve spent at Suffolk University.
I am blessed by all the classmates, colleagues, and friends I have met here. They have all deeply inspired me, and cumulatively molded the person I have become. I am humbled by the opportunities the University and its city have presented to me, and encouraged by the faith the faculty, administrators, and professors have had in me to succeed. I have been provided the resources to succeed, as well as a safe space to fail, and the freedom to learn from each of those. More than anything, I have been given the opportunity to begin defining who I am as a student, a scholar, a leader, a professional, an adult, and a person. Even in all of this wonder though, this is just the difficulty… I feel as though I’ve done everything I’ve been compelled to do here, taken from it more than I could possibly measure, and given back every spare ounce of myself I could. That is enough for me, and I can walk away proud of what I’ve done here. Now though, I feel ready to move on.
For that reason, I am infinitely grateful that Suffolk can give me one last experience before I graduate: the traditional study abroad semester I never had – at the SU Campus in Madrid, Spain. Come the first week of January, I’m picking up again, choosing to live out of a suitcase again, going somewhere I admittedly know very little about. There I will finish up a couple requirements, squeeze in an economics course, and dive into a Spanish class. I will live with a host family in Madrid, and make a decided effort learn what it means to live that life.
During this semester I find myself going through all the same fears and anxieties I have watched many friends go through during their senior years. I am certainly anxious for what “the real world” will offer, what I have to offer in return, and how well I will measure up. To a greater extent, though, I am eager for it. In planning my semester abroad, I feel more like I’m planning my next step into the world, but still within the comfort of a small step first. I am now making every attempt to pour all my efforts into my honors thesis, knowing that is the last piece of important work I will produce before I leave Boston. I am filling out applications earlier and keeping a more serious list of options to explore before I get too caught up in Europe. I’m working to downsize the already minimal amount of belongings I have, understanding I have little idea where I will be next year and no need for so many things. I even broke my apartment lease as the definitive choice to go, leaving myself no necessary reason to come back before I move on again.
In Melville’s colossal story, with its infinite number of lessons, at the very beginning the main character and narrator takes to the sea not at the moment he is most prepared, nor to a place he is necessarily prepared to go; but only when he most needs to, having enough self-awareness to know when that moment has arrived. He has no idea what he will find, only knows he won’t find it here. I hope that at any point in my life, when I am in a place that is no longer good for me and I have a constructive opportunity to change it, that I would take it. I hope that I would always be so brave. To that end, I’m starting now – with this rather whimsical and exciting, though resolute decision to go.
So, Call me Ishmael… and here’s to hoping I find a few less horrors than he, but even half the wisdom and adventure.