There are some things that live unwaveringly in the realm of the expected. The ingénue on the other side of the screen walks down the dark hallway where the killer lurks, despite our groans of “Oh my God, what are you doing? Don’t go down there!” The marinara drips onto our brand new pants approximately forty-six seconds after we’ve changed into them. The item that we ordered from a sketchy-looking website arrives from China two months later and with half the quality that we had hoped for, right on schedule.
Other things, however, work in the exact opposite way. When my drama club and I walked into the small, off-Broadway theatre and took our seats in the front row, I thought that I knew what to expect. I had read Peter and the Starcatcher when I was in elementary school and I had adored it. Consequently, I thought that there wouldn’t be much about this production that would surprise me. Then the actors brought out a set of ropes and with a few twists and stretches, the ropes transformed into a ship. A number of household items, from rubber ducks to lemon juicers, molded the cast members into mermaids. It was like a child had constructed the show from what they could ransack from the house when their parents weren’t looking, but, strangely, the script spoke with a twinkle of maturity in its eye. My attitude shifted from wariness to the kind of incredulous joy that leaves your jaw unhinged until the house lights come back up. The expectations that I had built up around what I believed that this show would be were erased in snaps of color, whimsy, and, best of all, the kind of writing that adheres to the back of your memory.
Years later, when I received my mortarboard for my college graduation, I wanted to channel that same sense of unexpectedness into my cap’s decorations. That challenge led me to think about what quote I could use to condense my three and a half years of constant reading and writing with the idea of moving on to something else. I thought about using something from Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson, who are two of my favorite American poets that I studied in school (you can fit the entirety of Leaves of Grass onto a grad cap, right?). I even considered taking something from a newer book, like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which I had written a twenty plus page paper on as part of my literary theory class. In the end, though, I went for a line from one of my favorite plays, which was based on a piece of literature that captured my childhood and my adulthood into a single speech:
“When I was a boy I wished I could fly. Out the window and over the trees…then loop de loop and up to the stars. Eventually, of course, we dream other dreams. We change. We grow up. It always happens. Nothing is forever. That’s the rule. Everything ends. And so our story begins.”
As I walked across the stage at graduation and then returned to watch all of my best friends do the same thing, I came to understand that endings are one of those things that lie in the universe of the expected. Even if things don’t end the way that we predicted or in a way that we don’t like, endings are always there, waiting for us. But this doesn’t mean that these pre-programmed endings don’t come with a trace of unexpectedness. For instance, I would have never guessed a few years ago that I would talk to a girl from Russia about anxiety and Hamlet, or that I would make friends that would recreate an episode of Chopped in our kitchen or perform the Avatar: The Last Airbender theme song in their living room with me, or that I would be accepted to graduate schools in London of all places. I know that I will leave nearly everything that I am accustomed to at an airport terminal in a couple of months and I know that I will fret over the process of making new friends and adjusting to life in a new country. All the same, it is the things that I don’t know that will happen, all those small unexpected things, that make me sure that going to the U.K. is the right choice for me.
Everything is coming to an end.
And so my story begins.