Monday, October 17, 2005

One-and-twenty: In Memoriam

On my way to class on Thursday, Ms. Catlett came back to haunt me (as she sometimes does) in the form of the day that she recited A. E. Housman's "When I was one-and-twenty" in senior English.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
`Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;

Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.'
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
`The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.'
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.

And so, between classes, I snuck down to the modern languages lab and printed me off a copy. I'm not sure I really live up to the wisdom and experience of it all yet. But what's better to mark a passing of a year than a poem? Right, right. Nothing, of course.

I really don't know where twenty-one went. So many things marked the year as special. (Warning: Faint whisperings of pseudo-moral haughtiness ahead.) Though it wasn't a big deal, legal alcohol consumption, the automatic presumed glory of twentyoneness, was enjoyable. I wasn't like aaaah, finally, but you know.

But really, twenty-one was about striking out into new territory, literal and figurative.

This whole year was lived "on my own," one could say, in an apartment by my own little self. Though that hasn't necessarily meant that I've grown up (though I have), it's at least been something drastically different. Through the experience thus far, I've learned volumes about decisions, relationships, and myself.

Journey, in its most literal sense, took form when I went to Spain this summer. I physically left everything known and went into the unknown for five weeks. Okay, it's not as if I went on an intergalactic quest without another soul within contact, but close. Leaving the homeland for a period of time (preferably extended) is a noble pursuit that everyone must chase. Fits nicely with twenty-one, I think. Not that I meant for it to work out that way. It just did.

Oh, and as a grand finale, I semi-sorta committed myself to following through with Spanish education. (I should be ironing things out with Dr. Bodevin this week.) Okay, so it's a bit weak for a grand finale, but it has some serious implications. Lots of extra schoolin'. Lots of extra opportunities. It is a venture that makes me apprehensive but excited, daunted but hopeful. I think those are the good ones.

I think we (or at least I) try to put heavy significance on every year, every chapter of our lives. This one was pivotal because... I'll never be the same after... But years and dates and birthdays and numbers are all so arbitrary. As much as I want to think that it's depressing that no one will ever remember how old I am again until I turn forty, it doesn't matter. Every bit of our lives is important. No matter how signficant or insignifcant something, some period of our lives feels, it all has equal impact on us. We are always a culmination of what we've been and what we are.

Today, I am twenty-two.

But twenty-one is not lost, for in addition to twenty-two, I also am twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, and everything that went before.

I like how Donald Miller puts it in the introduction to Through Painted Deserts:

And the closest thing I can liken life to is a book, the way it stretches out on paper, page after page, as if to trick the mind into thinking it isn't all happening at once.

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