Today I am a senior — a second semester senior, no less — and my December graduation date looms ahead, a deadline I cannot outrun and a harbinger of not only a beginning but an end. Here I stand, suspended in stasis in Frost’s yellow wood, with two roads ahead of me and one clearly less traveled.
I want to write but the world says no, write only schedules and school-assigned essays. We are living with noun-and-verb proverbs and my allusive adjectives confound the computer. Across the world there is an illiterate girl with fingers that quiver, how can I write when she sews day and night? My punctuation will not propel any peace; my fiction cannot build any bridges or keep children calm. I want to draw, but the world says no, draw only logical conclusions and the attention of those who can help you get ahead. I am living in a place in which crayons do not coexist with career fairs. Across the world there are men who draw enemy fire, wielding weapons much sharper than my Sharpies — what good can my coloring do? My doodles are not going to make a difference; I will not change a heart with my simple attempt at street art. I want to act and the world says no, raises its eyebrows and suggests instead that I get my act together. My script has been written for me, but I keep going off book, lips left mouthing words I am not supposed to say. Across the world there are those whose epics play out in acts of god or Congress, but I’m supposed to stay in character here. No lives are saved on stage; my performance will not temper any global storms.
I’d like to paint. Silly, the world laughs, paint only your nails to look like the ones in the Internet tutorial. This is a black-and-white world and your acrylic atmosphere is polluting all your potential. And across the world, there are those whose bodies are mauled and marked like a curved canvas, how can I still paint? My modest tempura will not halt any horrors. And yet, isn’t the world still in color? Don’t we still exist in surround sound, captured in photographs and films and carefully composed tweets? Our world is nourished by the fruits of creative labor, and yet this is no time to be a starving artist.
I want to read, too. Hush, everyone says, read only what’s listed on Blackboard and in the course syllabus. I am living in a choose-your-own-adventure novel — I keep swapping lives but the plot only thickens. Sooner or later, I’ll have to read the fine print. My syntax is too telestic for this textbook terrain, and I’d do better to remain where only thoughts of weekly meetings and emails fill my brain. I want to sing, but the world disagrees and says sing along only to the radio, to the songs that everyone else hears. Music is for those that don’t have to listen, and somewhere is the world women are being kept silent. Why compose symphonies to drown out the bigotries when the beat of your own drum will be beaten down in an office downtown? My melody is not going to make a difference; my muses are lost in a cacophony of cubicle conference calls and buried under bureaucratic boxes.
There seems to be finite room for artistic endeavors past a certain age — a finish line to which I draw nearer and nearer as graduation beckons. Look here, someone says, there are still new combinations of words yet to be written and new tunes yet to be choreographed and new ideas to be mulled over and carried out into the world. But I feel as though I am watching my own image, the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl, fade into college-ruled pages of notes and names and networking sessions. I am a freshly minted pre-professional with a button-down blazer and a resume bursting with checklist credentials. I am the 2017 batch on the corporate assembly line; my college expiration date is drawing near and all the creative impulses I’ve created are going rotten. There is no point in salvaging — who would be benefitted by an insistence on my own innovation? And still here I stand in Frost’s yellow wood, my December graduation date looming, with two roads ahead of me and one clearly less traveled.
Ruth Weissmann is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A Word to the Weiss appears alternate Fridays this semester.