On this day, one year ago, I waited silently for my ride to the airport, about to leap into a summertime adventure. I was with a different man, headed to a different country, with a different sense of myself. I'd just spent a week in California with my incredible family and celebrated the graduation of the class I came in with. I was still writing my Duke story, then. My real reflection, and one that will come later, will be on how I've changed since the beginning of that story.
This year, it was my brother, Julia, parents, and Steph and Robert, who came here to North Carolina with their words of wisdom and inspiring presence. Ben was by my side, as ever, helping to make the weekend run smoothly. The Vorhauses joined in, treating us to dessert. We ate our way through the short days, my feeble brain overwhelmed at the prospect of sharing my Durham experience with them. I did an inadequate job, but having at least introduced them to sweet tea, hush puppies, fried green tomatoes, fried chicken and Carolina bbq, I am confident I performed only my food culture duties well. And in spirit, the love of my grandparents, the Changs, the Chins - their warm wishes sent across the country in cards and calls.
I had my graduation tumble, too, falling down the stairs of the Bryan Center shortly before the Fuqua ceremony began. Eric Socci's mother, the kindest soul, helped me to recover and get me to the "ball" on time. Her kindness a microcosm of everything my Fuqua classmates are. My wounds are still healing, alongside my pride. And throughout it, the perpetual question has been, "how do you feel?" I cop my way out. "Strange," I respond. The truth is, I feel the same as I did this time last year. The stillness bears down upon me. The spectre of this room's emptiness, of regret's quiet ugliness, and of loss' lingering sensation - these things are almost more than I can bear. Lucky for me, they are tempered by the expansive glow of what I have had. The sensation that I am a stronger, humbler woman than I was this time last year, that I am both more complete and more uncertain, that I am at last, a finisher of what I set out to do in the fall of 2008.
There are many adventures before me. This I know. On Friday I will board a plane to Spokane to visit Ben's friends and family. In less than two weeks time, I will be headed for my summer project in Tanzania, and two weeks' travel in South Africa. And after that, New York. Everything sparkles with the promise of newness, the lustre of the unknown. But I will not be dazzled. I know better. The most exciting plans are also the ones to be most suspicious of. They are the ones that take us away from the present moment. They remove us from the experience of making the most of these moments - these last moments to gaze out the window at the riotous greenery outside, to listen to the latest Keane album and remember everything that has passed within these walls, to give thanks for all the plans that unraveled, or that came to glorious fruition. To be grateful for the people who have made so many happy moments for me in the last 32 months.