One year ago today I took the GRE. I had only the vaguest idea of applying to graduate school, and was entertaining a few very different options, having recently gone to a nonprofits-focused grad school fair sponsored by Idealist.org. Public policy at the University of Minnesota, with a concentration in the arts? Editing and publishing in the book industry at Emerson College in Boston? A self-designed master’s program at my beloved alma mater, the University of Chicago?
Today I sent in my FAFSA and have been making calls about immunization records. This week I was accepted at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, something which makes me scream inside (and sometimes outside) every time I remember that it’s real. I’ll be starting in early January.
A few months ago I renewed my passport. My last was issued in June of 2001. I remember sitting there looking at the photo of that girl and feeling both distant from and protective of her. She has so much ahead of her — college and 9/11 and California and improv and fumbling through her twenties and writing novels and road trips and fights and career angst and losing her mother. Especially losing her mother. Then I started to wonder if I was being too precious and literary about this moment, but that path seemed like a waste of my time. Feel what you feel and screw feeling ashamed of it.
I can say without qualifiers that this has been the worst year of my life. My mother died of brain cancer on August 24. Nothing I can say can make sense of or communicate what that’s like, so I will just say that I love her and miss her and have been thinking of her so much this week.
Yet the phrase that kept popping up when I shared this news was I’m so proud of you. That’s exactly what she said to me my whole life, and what she would have said now. I can’t tell you what it means to me to hear it from all my friends and loved ones. She was a little less gone every time I saw those words.
This week I also left my job of three and a half years. I have a month of funemployment ahead of me, during which I intend to do every fun thing I’ve managed to not do yet in Chicago, as well as the more mundane things I’ve been neglecting (you do not want to know what my kitchen or my apartment in general look like right now). (Yes, some of this includes working on Innogen & the Hungry Half — many have been asking!) I’ll also have eight days in Seattle, which, between spending time with my nieces (and their young Great Dane) and marathoning British TV with Joe Armstrong in, is going to be beyond splendid. I need this month. I need a month that’s just good to me.
I’ve often felt like it’s hard for me to look back on a year and notice the arc or the personal changes. This year has been a stark one, bad and good.
Hug the ones you love and tell them so.
Statistically, the hard times cannot go on forever. And at last, they didn’t.
Happy December, friends. May the next year be new.