Oh Susanna

I have been meaning to make a post about this all day yet I could not seem to find the words until the moon stretched her luminous arms to embrace the sky. Despite the fact that I am an early riser, I am often wide awake until these quiet, intimate hours as my mind never seems to let me alone. So as I am at my most effusive, I may have finally found the right words to use.

The seventh of May is my grandmother’s birthday. As many may know, she is no longer here to celebrate, and has not been for quite some time. My grandmother passed when I was relatively young. So, while I had some time to know her kindness and recognize her passion for living, I am without the experience of sharing my adult life with her, unlike most of my relatives. These are perhaps the times in which I so ardently wish to believe in an afterlife. I wish that somehow she is participating in the experiences I am having as a young adult, particularly since she is the inspiration behind so many of them.

According to family lore, my grandmother was a no-nonsense kind of woman: she said what she meant, did what she pleased, and never spared a care to what others thought of her. These qualities are precisely what I list whenever I am asked who I want to be when I “grow up.” Such is reflected in the New Year’s Resolution that I made for 2014: to stop being so darn timid and just carpe diem. So while it wounds my heart that I cannot share these wonderful adventures and experiences with her, a wee twinkling of optimism reminds me that it is precisely her memory that inspires me to do the things that I do. My greatest dream in life is to simply live as fully and completely as possible, and I wholeheartedly believe this was instilled in me by my grandmother’s example.

Yet I do have to remind myself that I have made some great leaps in this direction already:

  • I have survived living away from home for two years; being the world’s biggest homebody, I take this as a supreme accomplishment.
  • Yet there are two additional layers to this independence: one being the rigors of university life, and this on top of navigating a foreign country. This is something I never would have imagined for myself five years ago.
  • I recently climbed a mountain.
  • I am able to fully engage in the things that give me joy: running, swimming, horseback riding, and aimlessly roving about like the semi-feral creature I am.
  • My entire university course load is reading and writing. Living the dream right there!
  • In a few short weeks I will be making my first voyage to the European continent.

As this semester draws to a close, and with thoughts spared to my grandmother on her birthday, I cannot help but think how far I’ve come from that timid small-town girl who wandered too far from her cozy little Hobbit hole. Even at the start of second year I was still unsure as to whether I belonged at St. Andrews, and whether I could truly commit to three more years so far from the comforts of my home and my family. Yet while wandering the Lade Braes today in the warm evening sunshine, amongst the fragrant bluebells and gurgling little streams, I realized I could not be anywhere else at this time. Thoughts of my grandmother only reinforced this affirmation: what was once a fantasy of mine has become very much a reality simply by the strength of my will to do something different and to be my own person. And I have only my grandmother to thank for inspiring me to do this, because without her example, I probably would be a very different Maggie.

Also, as we begin making steps towards our final years here at St. Andrews, many of my peers are beginning to think of life after university. Throughout high school I had had my life planned to perfection: where I would go to university, what my senior thesis would be, where I would go after, what career I would have, etc. Seeing as step one on that agenda was attend New York University (oh how I laugh at sixteen-year-old Maggie), it is safe to say that that entire agenda may be wiped from the board. Even at the beginning of first year I had seemingly not learned, as I meticulously began to plan my life once again. Lately, though, I have given myself a slap in the face for such behavior. I need to take a breath, think for a minute, and cool the jets. Again, if my grandmother has taught me anything, it’s to simply live and live for today.

So that’s what I intend to do. Right now, I do not have a post-university plan, and that terrifies the list-making, organization crazed, and security obsessed part of me. Yet it is also strangely liberating. I still have some navigating to do in terms of growing up, and trying to compartmentalize myself when I haven’t even straightened out my own edges is not in good practice. I think for now my only plan is to do “stuff and things,” and right now, I think that is a-okay. For so long I have been making plans, drafting lists, and organizing, yet these all seem fruitless tasks, since life is too fluid to be managed in any of these ways. Lately, life to me has been like my beloved North Sea: you cannot force it to do anything you intend for it, but if you simply step back and appreciate both the tempestuous and the still moments, it is beautiful all the same.

To come full circle, I am still deeply saddened that I cannot spend these wonderful years with someone so important to me and someone who would truly appreciate this ever-growing passion for adventure. However, I guess the only thing I can do about it is live a life of gratitude. I am thankful that I have such a wonderful role model who inspires me to live as passionately and insatiably as I can. While I am unsure as to whether she ever came across any Tolkien in her time, I am certain that these words would have fueled her spirit in the same way as mine; and so, “The road goes ever on and on…”

Originally written 7 May 2014

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