The End.

I can’t fathom that tomorrow is my last day of class for the summer, that I’ve written two papers and moved to this strange and humid world six weeks ago, that people here prefer sweet tea.

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For our last day today I read my critical paper aloud with shaking hands. Once the blind terror of that experience was over, we talked John Green and The Fault in Our Stars and I love this book with my whole heart. There could be no more perfect way to end this course.

Tomorrow’s class will begin with brunch. Friday is a student/faculty potluck. And these new faces will be trickling home across the country. My life will seem different without them.

I’m excited to be home; I’ve been counting down days and hours. I’m looking forward to this road trip with my dad, listening to NPR and terrible (great) music and trying to drive for hours without bathroom breaks. I miss my dogs and my house and my own BED and the way the grass in my backyard looks even though I rarely go outside.

But here, between the hills and mountains and constant and sudden storms, here I’ve been pushed to read and THINK and write. I’ve been allowed to write pages about dystopias or Maurice Sendak, I’ve been encouraged to study picture books for the art they are. I’ve found an ice cream stand with ever-changing flavors and people who yell, “THIS IS MY TARZAN!” in order to express their great love and admiration for something.

So again I’m trapped between worlds, missing one thing or another. I am constantly reminded that the joy and blessings in my life cannot be contained in one state. God pushed me to grow and planted me here, and Hollins and my classmates have made this experience beautiful.

Presentating

Whenever my kids have to do a presentation, they ask, “When will we be presentating?” It’s one of those words that sticks in your head and threatens to come out in the most educated company.

Today I had to do a presentation on my paper idea, and I was up early this morning printing out rough drafts and lists of quotes and looking through the illustrations for the picture books I am using and finally I thought, stop. Just talk.

And as I was in front of a roomful of people babbling about how much I love Maurice Sendak, I started making connections and thinking new thoughts. All of a sudden I felt like I was going somewhere, and it was a place that I could talk about The Wolves in the Walls with all of the joy I have in me.

Before presentations I always get a stomach ache and feel like puking, and as I’m in this zone there are people saying, don’t worry. You’ll be great. You’ve got this. Pouring out encouragement and positivity.

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This attitude is moving. It’s beautiful. It’s how we should treat everybody, always. And to celebrate that I wrote a few letters, maybe finding a few more pen pals.

I need words to think. I need to speak or to write or else I get trapped in circular thoughts that never end. I was blessed today with chances to speak, about books I love and ideas I have, about stories, about small unimportant details that mean so much. These moments of connection are gorgeous.

Somehow

I’m almost 2/3 of the way done with this place.

For something that I’ve been craving and dreading for months, I really can’t believe how quickly time has passed.

I went to my mailbox today and found a note from a new pen pal.

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My favorite part was the list of questions on the bottom. “If you were a cleaning product or appliance, what would you be?”

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That pretty much sums up this place. For every moment I am overwhelmed or lonely, a kind word or quirky gesture makes me feel at home. I have rarely been in a school environment where joy permeates the learning. People want to be here. They work harder than anyone I’ve ever seen.

So this is where I’m at, torn between how quickly and slowly time moves, how much and little I want to think and work, how much I miss home and appreciate the newness of this experience. I have moments of missing flat land and the ugly suburbs, of the constant familiarity of my neighborhood and backyard, and moments of sheer wonder when I look at these mountains and hear the words spilling from people’s heads.

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I think this place, this program, is a celebration of words. I think the people here understand in their gut what words mean and how we are made of letters and sounds.

They are teaching me to hear again. And for that I am grateful.