Finding the words for graduating

I like words. I find them friendly, comforting. They are the first place I turn to when I need to think a problem through and whether alone on a page or performed by actors, they give me a sense of the world as it is and as it could be.

I collect them. I’ve posted about a favorite category of words–heteronyms–which I collect. But I also just collect words which feel good inside my head and in my mouth: you may have noticed lambent making several appearances in the past week. It means:

I know this because I’ve kept this definition open in a tab on my browser for the past few weeks. This word makes me feel like:

And this:

It’s hopeful and a little sad and big. It’s the kind of light I imagine lit Emily Dickinson when she wrote:

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

This poem’s also been sitting open in my browser, because I like the acknowledgment it gives of the sadness and hopefulness of parting. This poem makes me think of being away from Matt, of leaving Pittsburgh, of losing the Fulbright. I’m tempted to feel saudade, the loneliness for something which never existed. I’m tempted to idealize college and sentimentalize away all of the things I’ve found so hard about being a student who doesn’t like being taught at. I’d like to feel something simple, like pride in my school and myself for graduating, like excitement about my future, even mourning for losing a place in the place I’ve grown accustomed to.

But I feel all of those, the hopefulness and the sadness, the pride and the bitterness, and the only way I can exist with this swirly of the soul is to read, and write, and talk, and think, and try to find new words.

So today I feel lambent and saudade, and truly believe that “Parting is all we know of heaven, / And all we need of hell.”

Inspirational Quote:

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”–Toni Morrison


  1. Hi Jessica, Congrats on graduating! I wanted to tell you that I know exactly where you are going to be living in Seattle. One of my best friends from college lives very near your area – I/my family go to visit him and his partner at least once a year and it’s such a great area for hanging out, walking around, etc. He’s on 13th between Union and Spring, and I know Capital Hill very well. Have fun – I told your mom we should all meet up there at some point. Seattle is one of my favorite US cities.

    Best, Susan (your mom’s high school friend)

Get in touch

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