When I was preparing to graduate high school, there was a significant part of me that kept hyphenating everything in my senior year with a “last.” Last classes, last tournaments, last lunches, last sunrises, last bowling games (yes, my school let me take bowling as my P.E. credit — don’t ask me about it because I don’t know the origin story, but shoutout Ms. Zlogar). And this wasn’t all bad: it felt like there was an added imperative and responsibility not just to enjoy these experiences, but to enjoy them more because they were so final.
But simultaneously, something about imagining the ending stages of one period of my life as a kind precipice made all the “lasts” begin to overshadow their accompanying experiences: I was worried that, in my quest to make sure every moment was converted into the perfect memory, I was unknowingly missing out on something from my present.
So how do you, as a graduating high school senior, or college senior, or anyone, really, truly immerse yourself in your “lasts” without splitting your concentration between the present and the future?
Wanting some context? It’s a phrase I learned when, for part of spring break this March, I went tubing — which, if you don’t know, is just sliding down a very snowy, sometimes steep hill in an inner tube — and skiing in Colorado with a few of my senior friends!
Ever slid down a snowy hill in an inner tube with no way of stopping? I hadn’t done that before either! You just have to scream and hang on for the ride!
Now, I’d never done either before, and they were both pretty out of character for me as a bookworm with a fear of heights and an even greater fear of, well, hurtling along with no brakes. But one thing my fellow seniors have encouraged me to do this year is to kill my fears by being more adventurous — and to try to embrace every quickly approaching
tree new happening as it comes!
Okay, yes, admittedly it was cross-country skiing — but that was probably the most I was prepared for! And there were still some hills!
Me and the homies going for another round of tubing! It becomes increasingly fun after you shake off the jitters of the first few slides!
Because the irony of either is that the more you try to control your speed, the scarier it is — at some point you’re going too fast to say anything besides “yes” and “woooahhhh.” You can’t overthink the joy out of the present that way, and have to commit to leaning in: for me, it was the ideal antidote to dwelling on the Not-Now too much!
But back to the beginning. Near the end of our second day together in Colorado, my friend Sol explained the skiing phrase “two skip” — rather than saying it’s your last run, which can shift your headspace away from the mountain and the distance ahead of you, make you think prematurely about being indoors, and then put you at a greater risk of injury, say “two skip” (as in, two more, skip the last) instead!
So for the second half of my senior spring, I thought, what if I stopped thinking about the finality of it all so rigidly, and just absorbed each moment without worrying about how well I’d remember it? Would internalizing some sentiment inspired by “two skip” restore an appreciation of each experience to Present Me?
I tried it out — still acknowledging the nearness of an end, but not attaching it to my immediate present before I’d lived it! And the days rushed by me. So I leaned into the speed, and all the fumbles and joys and wipeouts and careening successes they brought! All the dances, dinners, games, parties, papers, poems, photoshoots — what if you, the recent graduate (or depending where you are in school, to soon-to-be graduate!) didn’t call it the last one?
Not because of denial, but as an experiment in letting your happiness be happiness without the temptation of enshrining it?
Because no matter how much you try to control the speed at which you enter the future, the next triumph is already on the way. The next adversity is already on the way. The next joy, the next beauty, the next setback, each rising up and rushing towards you — so live. You just have to live.