College ends, life begins

The room is dark, subdued, the weak lighting comes only from partially obscured wall sconces. em>La Wally performed by Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez is playing softly from a stereo system tucked in the corner of the room. Slowly, sense is being made of that which lacks form and so often description. Yet its function remains unquestionable, its benefit never in doubt.

As the last of the day’s sun fades over the horizon and the mauve and green sky fades to black, my companion and I find examples in La Wally to try to explain the massive paradigm shift that we will be experiencing as school wraps up for the year.

Sitting in the corner next to the stereo, swirling the faint amber liquid in my glass, I muse that I’m in the third act, which finds Wally driven by passion to scale down the treacherous cliffs of a snowy ravine to retrieve that which she loves so dearly. As my final year as an undergrad comes to a close, I talk about the future, a future of facing new challenges and forcing myself even deeper into the depths of chaos for that which means so much to us: In my case, finishing my time at PSU and pursuing a graduate degree.

My companion compares herself to the fourth act, where the fearless Wally has abandoned her home for the distant and dangerous mountains. Following in Wally’s footsteps is her friend, begging her to return to what she knows and what she loves. Faintly, across the freezing expanses of snow, another voice calls to Wally, beckoning her forward, to love and a life of happiness.

She wonders if that will be the life of a post-graduation former college student: leaving behind the familiar, exploring the vast unknown, faithful in the belief that somewhere out there lies something that will make the journey worthwhile.

The liquid consumed, I ask if indeed our journey is merely a means to an end. Do we subject ourselves to late and often sleepless nights, hours upon hours of studying for each class, each term, simply to get that degree we covet so deeply and jump into the real world while leaving all the experiences of our time at university behind us? Are we so preoccupied with the vastness of the forest we fail to recognize the beauty of the trees? She smiles, but has no answer.

After finishing our drinks and receiving many quizzical glances from the other patrons, we take our leave. Slowly walking back toward campus in the freshly minted evening, I declare that Bruce Springsteen would have been a better choice for the pub to play from its small corner stereo. My companion ponders my comment for a bit and responds that ol’ Bruce would have been fine if we had been a couple of shift workers relaxing after a day pulling green chain, living uncomplicated lives of routine.

Instead we are presented with an obscure Italian love opera, an unforeseen blessing that we dissected and used as a metaphor of our lives in college and the future challenges that await. Bruce wouldn’t have risen to such a challenge.

Thus is school. Like the story told in La Wally, it is an adventure. We cannot plan for every occurrence—good or bad. We cannot plan for every bump and setback. Like Wally, we may get angry and do something we regret, but hopefully we’ll have the foresight and wherewithal to see that amends are made and we proceed on with our education. Across the distant and hazy unknown we proceed on, passion pulling us forward to life of, we hope, happiness and fulfillment.