The Barrel Roll

The funny thing about post-grad life is that it’s just like any other time of life except you don’t think it should be.  There’s a sense of entitlement that comes with graduating college.  Like the world is supposed to all fall in line now.  Like everything is supposed to right itself at this very moment because you’ve graduated and you’re ready for the rest of your life to just go ahead and happen.

Growing up, you always knew generally what you’d be doing next and where you’d be doing it.  In grade school, you’re living birthday to birthday – being 9 is obviously so much older than being 8.  And next year you’ll be double-digits, at which point, you’ve really made it.  Then you’ll get to fifth grade and start thinking about middle school.  You’ll get to play a sport or join a club and finally get your own locker.  Three awkward years later you’ll start thinking about high school.  Because high school will obviously be so much cooler than middle school.  You’ll get your driver’s license and go to football games and maybe, just maybe get asked to the prom.  And you’ll make it through your junior year and suddenly have SAT’s to take and applications to fill out.  So you’ll take your tests and fill out your applications and you’ll finally, finally get to college.  You’ll move out of your parent’s house, join a sorority, turn 21, and probably get engaged because, after all, everyone meets their husband in college.  You’ll take the classes you want to take and join the organizations you want to join and figure out what it is exactly that you want to do with your life.  You’ll be in college.  You will have made it.

And then at some point you’ll be married.  You’ll make dinner for your husband when he gets home from work, go jogging with your stroller and your golden retriever, have coffee with a friend from your women’s bible study group, and drive your kids to the park in your mid-size SUV because, after all, you will be way too cool for a minivan.  And then you’ll live your happy little life onward from there.

That’s the extent, at least for me, of the mental life planning I did all along the way.  At each step I knew generally what would follow.  Open, of course, in my laughable “humility” to the curves the Lord would throw in here and there, but ultimately resting in the comfort of the framework of life that the rest of the world had laid out for me.  K to 1, to 2, to 12, college, marriage, and hopefully a Notebook-esque death.  That, I could work with.

The problem, however, is that no one ever tells you about the little gap between college and the rest of your life.  You don’t hear too much about the lag time before the husband and the kids and the dog.  The world doesn’t shed much light on those unfortunate souls that don’t jump right off the graduation stage and over the white picket fence.  It’s like the lost chapter – forgotten, alone, confusing as hell.

It’s like suddenly you find yourself wearing this ill-fitting mortar board and highly unflattering graduation gown and you’re standing on the edge of a cliff.  You’ve just unknowingly walked a faint slope for 22 years, having no concept that the path would ever end, or even that you were going uphill for that matter, and you reach the edge.  And you frantically look around you, hoping desperately that this is just some sort of mistake, some sort of freak lapse in the universe, and someone will soon show up and fix it.  Bridge the gap.

But no one does.  And instead, the world starts telling you to jump.  Just jump.  Take the adventure, enjoy the ride, YOLO, or some other obnoxious, empty phrase that does anything but help when you’re standing on the precipice of your imminent doom.

But you don’t know what else to do.  And you have to turn the cap and gown back in before they fine you.  So you just jump.  Or stumble.  Or in my case, barrel-roll down the damn thing, trying not to choke on the stupid honors cords that now seem pointless, and taking comfort only in the fact that, so far, you’ve yet to hit the bottom and die.

“But it’s fine,” they tell you.  “You’ll be fine…It’s just a transition period.”

So it’s not just you.  Everyone else forgot the post-college, pre-mom jeans part, too.  Everyone else is waiting for you to make it to “the other side” of life.  You’re all just trying to ride out the wait.  To cross this forsaken, black vacuum of lag time.  To survive the “in-between stage.”

And that’s what’s funny about the post-grad year, or two, or five.  You think you’re lost, floundering, in-between what was and what should be, but you’re not.  You’re really, truly, wholly not.  And you just don’t know it.

One of my best friends from college just moved to Philadelphia to start grad school for Christian counseling.  Another moved to Denver to work at the children’s hospital.  One is a teacher, another, a Young Life staffer, a financier, an aspiring speech pathologist, and so on.  And I have some friends, incredibly smart, talented, capable people, that are living at home and trying not to feel dejected as they keep looking for a job.  But in all the different courses our lives are taking we all feel a bit like we just can’t quite breathe yet.  Like the universe just threw up and somehow we ended up where we are.  Like the colossal earthquake of graduation sent us flying wildly into the air and we’re still trying to crawl between the chasms to get to the rest of our lives.

When in reality, this is the rest of our lives, there is no “in between” stage.  There’s nothing random, or arbitrary, or menial about this time right now.  The Lord didn’t make a mistake in putting us here.  We’re not just waiting around for the other shoe to drop.  And while, it may still be a terrifying, unsightly barrel-roll down a cliff, it is sheltered in the perfect, merciful sovereignty of the Lord.  This stage of life is just like all the others – a purposeful, meaningful, tiny part of a tiny life in the captivating story of salvation.

I just wish someone would’ve told me that before I got here.

So screw you, world, for negating this part of the journey.
The forgotten years will not go down without a fight.
Nobody puts baby in the corner.
(Or some other empowering phrase.)

This is not an in-between stage.
There is no in-between stage.

I’ll make t-shirts to raise awareness as soon as I reach the bottom.

5 thoughts on “The Barrel Roll

  1. Cheers to you Miss Price! At least you’ve jumped, stumbled and are currently barrel-rolling down the damn thing. I chickened out and ran. All the way to Washington. But it still didn’t get me away from the edge of that cliff. There i sit, too afraid to give up and jump, cowardly resigning myself to a prison of vicarious living in my own dashed dreams and desires. Your post, as i think of it based on my own experiences, reminds me of a scene from Harry Potter. When Harry spends his nights in front of the mirror Erised–a mirror that shows him his hearts deepest desire. Its a chilling yet deeply human scene. The more he sits in front of it, the more he falls in love with his favorite fiction; and the more he loses touch with the world and reality. There was a great line in the scene that went something like this: “Many great witches and wizards have wasted away in front of that mirror.”

    So cheer up! At least you’re brave enough to throw your middle finger up (And if you asked me i’d put that on the t-shirt as well… If you asked me.), break that f’in mirror, and take a plunge. I wasn’t. Interestingly, that’s actually a feat that the hero of Rawling’s story couldn’t accomplish. Dumbledore had to hide the mirror from Harry. The best line in the book is after Dumbledore told Harry he was going to hide the mirror. I wont forget that line. Dumbledore told Harry, “It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.”

    Maybe that sounds like just another one of those “encouraging” lines that “experienced” people throw out to little boys and girls. But i think its more than that; because, Dumbledore actually does something for Harry before he says it. He removes the mirror. So it’s not just one of those halmark-esque uppers that we so often lob at each other like hand grenades.

    And thats the thing: The only time i can ever hear and receive advice on the negative effects of spending my life staring in that mirror is after some gracious other has removed it from my sight. I believe this to be the case for me as well as the case for you. God, in Christ, has done the act for me, even though i still have fond memories and anxious nights about the sight of that mirror. And God has accomplished the act of moving you into his shelter and off of a mountain of “success”, “merit” and “accomplishment” that never really existed in the first place. You said it yourself:

    “When in reality, this is the rest of our lives, there is no “in between” stage. There’s nothing random, or arbitrary, or menial about this time right now. The Lord didn’t make a mistake in putting us here. We’re not just waiting around for the other shoe to drop. And while, it may still be a terrifying, unsightly barrel-roll down a cliff, it is sheltered in the perfect, merciful sovereignty of the Lord.”

    Remember, it’s only after the deed is accomplished that we can stand to listen to the moral:

    “Grace strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage.” Paul Tillich

    That was a long comment. And certainly just as much for myself as it was for you. But your post was so compelling, for your finger is directly on the pulse of where i and so many others i know are. I love reading your posts. I’ve wanted to write long comments, responses, and praises, but have always chickened out. This time i finally broke. If i may have one critique, it is only my wish that you would post more often! I thoroughly enjoy them, every time.

  2. Amen, Bwau13. More posts, please?
    I wouldn’t be lying if I said I check your blog every day.
    Overboard? Maybe.
    True? As I already stated, yes.

  3. Touche.
    Overboard? Na. But neither would i be lying if i told you there may be better ways to spend your time.
    Just be careful. Might pick up some bad habits.

  4. Bailey. Hi.

    So I randomly came across my blog from high school tonight and then somehow stumbled across this gem of yours.

    Omg. This post. You kill me. I giggled so much in this because it’s so freaking truuueee. I SO FEEL YOU! I have been “stuck” in post-grad limbo for three years now. Fun!!!!

    Let’s be friends. Ok bye.

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