Do Not Read Until Graduation Day 2012

This love letter is for the After.

After the last final. After that final slam of the book on the coffee table. After the cashier at the college book store hands you a pathetic pile of pocket change for that very same book you paid triple the price for just a semester ago.

After the indebted thank-you notes to professors who have strung you to a syllabus while steering you  towards unexplored potential for the last four years. After the clearing out: the apartment, the cabinets under the sink, the crooks of the office desk, the 6×6 space of a PO Box that sometimes held the rejection letters like a pro. Sometimes carried the best of news to you. The momentous occasions that made you pop, lock and drop it in the mail room. Over a piece of paper. Over your future.

This love letter is for the After.

After the fittings for a gown that has been a symbol for some kind of century that “You’ve made it” and “Congratulations”. After you’ve laughed with friends, wine glasses in your hands and those same graduation gowns on the hangers in the living room, asking out loud, “Who invented this horrible attire? Can we punch that man in the face?”  

After you’ve walked the campus close to midnight, biting back tears as you pass through the trees & buildings, pathways & chapels that grew you up. You never skinned your knees in these places but you’ve let your heart in doorways. You’ve found pieces of yourself broken off in the dorms of freshman year. Scattered in the courtyards. Hung high on the scoreboards and draped in the offices of Student Government and Campus Activities.

This love letter is for the After.

After the banquets. Rehearsals. Fiestas. Siestas. After the stage grows quiet and the valedictorian steps up to speak. After you check your phone to find texts from your family sitting proud in the crowd. Mom is hooting loud. Your sister is tearing up in the third row. Grandma has a new dress on.

After you stand up. Walk down the aisle. Up the stairs. Shake the President’s hand. Smile for the snapping of the photo. And walk across the stage into the After.

The After College Life. The After Dorm Life. The After Studying for Finals Until 4AM. The After This… This very thing you called Your World for 4 years, 1,460 days, and however many hours you never thought to count.

This love letter is for the After.

After you’ve cut some things away. After you’ve taped up some boxes you won’t soon open again. After you’ve practiced Goodbye in the mirror until the day it came. Like a tidal wave. Like a flood that left the ends of your dress sopping. Like the words the Older Ones warned us would get us one day… leave us teary-eyed and wondering why SanFrancisco couldn’t lift up her ruffled prom dress and clomp on over to sit beside New York City. Why Chicago couldn’t snap on rollerblades and go skate with Boston for a little while.

After you are here. And he is there. And they went over there. And he just stayed put.

After all of you went separate ways, walking outward with one hand holding a cellphone and the other full of promises to call all the time. After you made Other Kinds of Promises under the same blanket of stars: that you’d do good things. That you’d try for one another. That it wouldn’t be too long til you were clinking cocktail glasses and toasting to promotions. That it would be just a tomorrow away before the Save the Date came in the mail and you’d start prepping to dance at the weddings.

This love letter is for the After.

After the After shakes its hips, stirs its soul, crawls into its cocoon and emerges as Ready. Ready to face the “real world.” Ready grow wings. Ready to rock a shade of red lipstick. Ready to stand outside the boxes of resumes & cover letters to say to the world: This. Is. Me. Ready to be a world shaker & a change maker, a doer & driver. Ready to forget traces of the lines that were once made for coloring inside. Ready to forget the recipes of Normalcy. Ready to embrace the stepping the forward. The next chapters.

Ready to turn your life into a love letter After you put this one down.