T-100ish days left until graduation.
In first grade, Ms. McCloud had us bring in 100 of “something” to show to the class. I piled up 100 pennies in a giant manilla envelope and walked in to find all of the kids crowded around a tiny black square on the table in the corner of the classroom. Hannah’s scientist parents had single-handedly (and microscopoly?) counted off 100 grains of salt.
Aside from the lofty realization that Hannah’s parents needed to chill, seven-year-old Emily had a mini epiphany. Who knew that “one hundred” could fit in a centimeter-squared and a giant manilla envelope?
One hundred days before graduation. That’s 55 class days, one trip to the Plex, three times I’ll accidentally watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians, 900 pages of Infinite Jest, 50 films, 200 cups of coffee, one 2 a.m. trip to IHOP, two Sunday mornings at the Breakfast Club, 33 (approximately) dance parties, one seasonal playlist, and 10 Late Nights too many.
I can measure this period of time in seasonal shifts, songs, days, books, films, conversations, or grains of salt arranged neatly against a dark cardboard square. Conceptualizing the time we have left is daunting, but also kind-of-really exciting. It feels like, prior to the great post-college abyss, there were bite-sized intervals of time we could rely on. But everything following the progression of schools and its standardized benchmarks is amassed into one hungry beast.
Thinking about deadlines is counterintuitive and uncomfortable, but it also endows the in-betweens with meaning. Seemingly dull and mundane tasks suddenly emanate a spirit of memento mori. A little less anxious denial and a lot more creepy grinning as you walk down Linden Lane.
It’s easier to think about time as an imposed, regimented structure. I personally try not to think about its stealthy passage, but just kinda, sorta, let it happen. The problem is that the illusion of having a lot of time breeds lethargy. We succumb. Thinking about time manifests itself in cheesy bucket lists, vulnerable full disclosure, and a desire to be an active agent in one’s own life.
In Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer talks about exercising and training your brain to remember. As we age, we get caught up in routines, and “if you’re not doing things that are unique and different and memorable, this year can come to resemble the last, and end up being just as forgettable as yesterday’s lunch.” Our ability to recall memories will weaken as our memories blend together and become more and more alike.
What if, instead of 100 pennies or 100 grains of salt, I’d brought in an eclectic collection of objects and trinkets (for example, an acorn, a lucky penny, a pokemon card, my Aaron Carter poster, and Skittles-flavored Smuckers)? The value and meaning attributed to 100 is suddenly weightier and substantially more sentimental.
Maybe it’s helpful to think about life in terms of 100-day expanses and attempt to make those days a collection of dissimilar memories. This doesn’t have to be a dramatic act of reinvention, but an opportunity to make slight alterations in everyday routines. Also, this carpe diem disposition shouldn’t be symptomatic of a looming graduation or acute senioritis. This is why I’m writing this column now, and not when I’m over and out.
Last year, I was in the Rat with a friend of mine who was graduating in a couple of months. He brought up dodged and hasty goodbyes, something I do all the time. I avoid saying goodbye or taking goodbyes seriously because they’re sad and uncomfortable—”I won’t say goodbye because I’ll probably see you again!” And then I don’t see that person again, and the goodbye is way less monumental than it should have been. I was taken aback by the crude realization that I probably wouldn’t see him again, but it was also a much-needed wake-up call.
So here’s a humble offering of a wake-up call. It might be a little untimely and premature, but hopefully it will spur a sense of urgency and a desire to forge some odd and assorted memories with your 100 days.
Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor