Just over a year ago, I graduated from college. It took four years to earn my degree, two years to decide what I wanted to major in, and an as-yet undetermined number of years to figure out what I am truly meant to do with my life. Fortunately, it took a fraction of that time to find the best friends in the world – namely, five of the girls who lived on my freshman year floor.
Today, we no longer climb into one another’s beds to tell stories after a night out or shout to one another from down the hall. Instead, we maintain an email chain across time zones, law exams, and job interviews. But all that changed this weekend when we reunited for the first time since May 2008 – the longest we’d been apart since we started college.
It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. I worked hard for that college diploma – not just in my four years at Richmond, but in the preceding 13. And you know what?
When the caps are thrown in the air, the boxes are packed, and you’re tearfully waving goodbye to the school and friends you’ve come to love, it’s a little anti-climatic. Four years of all-nighters, fraternity parties, hour-long discussions on the merits of 18th-century British poetry, sorority socials, final exams, and tailgates and then…?
Then you realize that the precarious balance of your life – the balance you maintained through studying abroad, through hangovers, through internships, through lectures that just wouldn’t end and concepts you just couldn’t grasp – has shifted. No longer can you think in 3-month, semester-long increments. No longer can you utter the words “See you in the fall! Have a good summer!” No longer is your life about packing and unpacking and packing the same stuff back up, or seeing how many beer posters you can hang on the wall of your dorm room. No longer is there a need for laundry quarters or the swipe card that gives you access to your meal plan. And, fortunately, life has no GPA.
So where does that leave us? Mostly, it leaves us searching for a new balance, one I haven’t found yet. But I’m 23 years old. I’ve got some time to sit back, enjoy life, and reflect on how far I’ve come in a year: I have a full-time job (which was, in itself, an exhausting, months-long endeavor), a wonderful Boyfriend, and a new car. I’ve traveled to cities I’ve never visited before, I’ve done and seen new things. And while I’m admittedly not quite where I want to be in my life yet, I’m definitely in a good place. And I definitely take it for granted some days, worrying and wishing my way through the good parts.
In an effort to change that, this weekend, I focused on my friends and the reunion we’d been planning for months. Not the fact that Boyfriend was en route to Israel, not the fact that I was about to have a stressful week of work, and not the fact that I had a car payment coming up. I just enjoyed my time with the girls. And catching up. And gossiping. And laying out by the pool. And drinking wine. And champagne. And Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.
Also, we enjoyed eating. A lot. Which is pretty much the case whenever we’re all together, which pretty much explains the whole Freshman-Fifteen-that-Lasted-Until-Senior-Year thing. No judgment.
We don’t tend to eat a lot of gourmet fare when we’re together – it’s more like a lot of bar and brunch food. This weekend was no different. Our first dinner back together (and really the only one we ate outside of either a bar or my friend’s apartment) took place at Ray’s Hell Burger, made famous by Obama’s visit to the impossibly crowded little restaurant where there is literally nothing but burgers on the menu. No french fries, no chicken fingers, no hotdogs, nothing but burgers. Fortunately, they are awesome burgers. In my continuing quest to challenge my stomach’s ability to process almost inedible levels of spicy food, I opted for a burger cooked in cajun spices topped with jalapenos and pepper jack cheese. Wow.
First of all, this is a big burger. Ten ounces of burger plus bun is a lot to fit in your mouth, and if I didn’t think my friends would hunt me down, I’d post the hilarious series of pictures that resulted from us attempting to eat anything more than half of this monster at once. They’re already on Facebook, so I think I’ve still done my civic duty in that department.
What I can tell is that I probably should’ve left the jalapenos off the top – it was more painful than it was delicious until I drastically reduced the heat by removing most of the peppers. But the cajun spices with pepper jack cheese? That was good eatin. And more importantly, we were back together – truth be told, I didn’t feel like we’d ever been apart.