Saturday, April 2, 2011

slow down.

It's a beautiful day in St. Louis. Sunny, 60 degrees, slightly breezy--the perfect spring day in one of my favorite places in the world. These are the days that remind me of why St. Louis is a great place to live, and an especially great place to go to college. Ironically enough, today also marks the beginning of the 50 day countdown until graduation. 

Since I was greeted this morning with beautiful weather and no committments until 6pm, I decided to take a run around the edges of campus. This is one of those little things that I've never done--something as simple as walking around the entire perimeter of campus at one time. From Laclede, to Compton, to Lindell, to Vandeventer, with two Grand crossings in the middle. These streets have been my home for the past four years. They have become both shelter from the outside world and an awakening to completely new sense of that world and of myself.

I laced up my shoes, grabbed my keys, and headed out the door. Initially, my run was invigorating, and I reveled in the simple joy of physical accomplishment in the midst of some completely gorgeous weather. Eventually, the fact that I was running on a basically empty stomach caught up with me, and as I paused to walk for a moment, my emotions caught up with me as well. 

Slow down, my body urged, and my heart also tried to heed the message. I walked the rest of the way around campus, reveling in my surrounding from some of SLU's most beautiful architecture to the message "follow your heart" written in the concrete sidewalk. I breathed in and out, and I took in the blue sky, the blooming trees, and the smallest intricacies of each SLU tulip. While part of me wishes I had had my camera in tow, I also know that I could not have captured the simple joy and beauty of those moments if I had tried. 

The tension of SLU's existence also hit me head on--the contrast between the perfectly manicured lawns on one side of the street and the homeless man pushing a shopping cart on the other side of the street. At one time, I would have looked away from him, uncomfortable with such a challenge to the often frivolous and excessive life that I lead. Today, I looked at him as an individual worthy of dignity and respect and thanked SLU for giving me a completely new understanding of social justice and the value of accompanying people where they are. 

With all of these thoughts running through my mind, my physical pace slowed to a meandering pace, as I pondered the meaning of my past four years at SLU. I really can't believe that all of this is happening, that these streets that have sheltered, shaped, and challenged me for so long are getting ready to lead me out into the bigger world. I'm moving to a new city in a few months, taking on new & different work, and learning to live with & love new roommates. And as exciting as all of that is, all my heart is saying to me at the moment is slow down. Appreciate. Savor. Revel. Be here now in this moment, not in the past, not in the future.

I'm compiling a list of 50 things I want to do or accomplish before graduation (currently, I'm only at about 40, but I'm confident that the rest will come). Some are silly and stupid; others are nostalgic and meaningful. But in some way or another, they each represent the reasons why I have fallen so in love with SLU over the past four years.

Those who know me well can attest to the fact that I'm kind of an overly-emotional person. (Example: hearing "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas almost made me break down in tears last night... in the middle of a crowded bar. It reminds me of Rome, okay?) With that in mind, I have no idea how I'm going to handle these coming weeks. I'm freaked out that I'm not already an emotional mess; this is just a sign that I'm in denial. 

Perhaps all I can do to deal with what's about to happen is to slow down--to savor every $1 pitcher of beer from Humphrey's, every minute of class, every Wednesday night dinner with my roommates, every homily at 9pm Mass on Sunday nights, every run around campus in beautiful weather. And as I slow down, hopefully I will take time to be thankful for what I have been given here and to ponder what I will give back in return.

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