what lies ahead
by Aqeela Naqvi
Sometimes, I see the whole of my life as this giant, drawn-out timeline. And every time something big or important is about to happen, I imagine this giant Sharpie coming down, its bold, black lines marking the turn in the plot, the asterisked moment, the felt-tipped flashing light that life as I know it is about to change forever.
Blue and gold. It feels like just yesterday that I was holding the same colored tassel in preparation for my high school graduation. Sitting on the football field that day, I remember looking at familiar faces and school buildings, and thinking that though those faces had become some of my dearest friends, though that school had become for me a second home, I was ready for the next adventure. There was that giant Sharpie, drawing a line at 2010, gesturing towards 2014, the four-year gap between them seeming to me nothing less than an eon. I wondered about the 22-year-old self I would meet, but brushed the thought from my mind; there was pleeenty of time until then.
Little did I know that the meeting of my two selves would be so soon. Before I knew it, here I was again: standing on a field with hundreds of other graduates, beaming the kind of smile that makes your cheeks ache, searching bleachers for the waves of friends and family. The line was once again being drawn; I could hear the scrape of the felt-tip, see the undulating waves of ink sinking into the paper. As I was asked to switch my tassel from right to left, the wind knocked the strands into my face, and in my vision, there were those colors once again—blue and gold.
And suddenly, it was as if I was outside my own body, standing at a crossroads, watching the stretching of hands reaching across the timeline of my life to greet each other. The last four years have been filled with some of the happiest moments of my life as well as some of the saddest—moments which have been Sharpied in as both the steady branches and stumbling roots that line my path. And it is through experiencing them that I have come to understand that, though there are certain moments which embolden themselves in our life’s memories, it is also the less bold, lightly sketched pencil marks which also influence our overall journey.
We see the future in chunks of time, severing our lives into blocks of accomplishments and milestones. Too often, we forget that the next day, the next hour, the next minute, is also our future. That each moment we live and change and grow is both a death for the person we once were and a rebirth for the people we are constantly becoming. Between my tassels, I saw the high school graduate who had once been my flesh and bone, but who now arrived like an apparition from another lifetime; the college graduate who now lives in my skin, whose voice and thoughts have found residence in my mind; and the future me—the one of the next day, next hour, next minute, whose arrival would turn me from a host to a guest in my own home.
And though the distinctions between these people seemed bittersweet, I realized how necessary this growth was, how beautiful it was to never “be,” but to always remain “becoming.” Though each of my lives came across as being separated by bold lines, I realized that they actually transitioned into each other; that their transformations were the accumulation of tiny, imperceptible tick marks…marks which I realized, even at the moment of sitting on that field, were constantly changing, constantly revising, the me of today.
And as I looked around me, melding past, present, and future, I thought of the faces of new friends, old friends, and friends who are no longer with us; I saw the beautiful buildings which, once again, had begun to feel like home; and, as I switched my tassels…whaddya know, there was that Sharpie again, coming down to mark the turning point—the end of an amazing experience, and the beginning of a new adventure. This time, however, I noticed not only the bold line, but also the tiny marks that preceded it…and I was grateful for every single one: to God, for the chance to witness such a beautiful life; to my professors, for awakening my soul every day through the study of my passion, literature; to my family, for being the strength of my spine; to my friends, who made this journey such a wonderful ride;
and to the TCNJ English department for walking our procession in to the theme song from Harry Potter…because now, I basically graduated from Hogwarts.
Congratulations to the Class of 2014!