About an hour and twenty minutes ago, I sent off the last paper.
The last paper, of the last class, of the last semester of my Bachelor’s degree.
I walked the walk back in June. That was a ritual, a rite of passage, one of the few American culture grants. But tonight, about an hour and twenty minutes ago, I earned it.
When I was a teenager, we had a box of Ying Mee loose-leaf jasmine tea. It was from all the way in Hong Kong, from a shop I would later visit and a city I would later love. But this artifact of a wide world, from far beyond Morro Bay, from distant China…it was special. And so I saved it. I only took a few pinches of that jasmine tea when I had something to celebrate.
When I got my High School Equivalency certificate.
When I graduated from Cuesta College.
When I got my first job.
I used to think that celebration, that accomplishment, meant food and beer and loud driving music. I spent years trying to make it so, wondering what was wrong with me that throwing a big party always made me feel hollow. Celebration isn’t, not for me anyway.
It’s some music that’s subtle and rich, Yoko Kanno or Blade Runner or Pink Floyd or Miles Davis, and a cup of jasmine tea. And solitude, to let the old quietly drain out and the new seep in. It takes me time to come to grips with it.
With finishing a novel.
With coming back to China when I thought I was exiled for good.
With completing school.
I felt like I was sending myself off. That part of me, the college student, who’s been going to school or avoiding going to school since I was fourteen, was going away. And it makes me sad, and wistful, and glad at the same time…but those are all too blunt descriptors. The emotions blend together like the colors of a dawn or the flavors of a cup of jasmine tea.
Good bye, student. It has been an honor. It has been such an honor.
Thank you, everyone who stood by me, and with me, for however long, on my way here. I could not have done it without you.