Well, here we are, our residency evaluations handed in, our semester plans signed by our advisors and filed, the packages that greeted us when we arrived now on their way home ahead of us. We’ve pre-packed our bags and organized rides to the airport, the train station, and all points of the compass.
We attended the small graduation ceremony in the chapel and we, the first semesters, were given symbolic blank journals as tradition dictates to record out journey ahead. We took a silly group portrait afterward, two shots for every camera available. We attended the reception in the art gallery, eating guacamole and salsa clearly not made in the cafeteria. We ate from the largest cake ever seen, still partially frozen, the knife hacking away at chunks more than it cut. Champagne and apple juice flowed, conversations darted like slippery fish throughout the room, and almost as quickly as it began people began to drift away.
Farewells began as people leaving then or later in the evening returned to the dorm to pack their belongings, their cars, the memories. Pillow cases stuffed with linens piled up in the collection bins. Keys were dropped into their security box.
After ten days of being aware and connected to each other our focus shifts, we smile and make quick conversation in passing, but our concerns are on the mental checklist in our heads. Did I remember to pack this, do I know what time my flight leaves, am I forgetting something? Our community is pulling apart, we’re becoming the strangers we were only days ago.
Plans are made, hastily. Dinner downtown? Where? Are we meting in the front of the dorm? I hear the pizza there is bad. Did so-and-so already leave? Do you know what the others are doing? I can’t stay up late tonight, still need to pack, I can’t drink tonight.
At dinner the lulls in the conversation are filled with looks, exhausted looks, careful looks, an attempt to fix facial details and personal histories. July seems so far away. There’s so much work waiting for us, some of us staring down deadlines less than three weeks away. We double check each other’s plans, confirm each other’s advisors. We’re memorizing for a test we’re anticipating that will never really come, we’re thinking ahead to those days when we are on the bulletin board trying to link these invisible bonds we’re feeling.
We’re coming back, we know we’ll be back, it’s only temporary. Two years seems like the beginning of a marathon; at the end of two years, looking back, the marathon will have felt like a sprint. But we feel it now, this sense of already having lost something. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz we know when she says goodbye to her friends that she will always carry them with her in their hearts. It’s that weight of all these memories and people that makes our hearts heavy.
Heading back to our rooms we elect to say goodbye as a group, just in case we don’t see each other until July. We’re all still planning to head to the lounge and hang out until we can’t stand it anymore, then head back to our rooms again for a final night’s sleep on the not-our-beds.
Then morning, quick showers and quick breakfasts, moving with purpose to catch transportation connections as fixed as our lecture schedule was less than twenty-four hours earlier. In shared rides we’ll talk glib, make and remake promises to stay in touch, just like the ones we made at the end of high school. For now those promises are linked to our commitment to the program but in a few years it will need to come from within.
In assigned seats our focus will drift. Magazines, our first connection back to the outside world, will be unable to deliver on the promise of holding our attention. We’ll look out the car window, the plane window, the train window and think about each other. Are they thinking about me, we’ll wonder?
How silly, to be missing these people so soon, as if we had found soulmates who we didn’t know existed, who we didn’t realize we were looking for, who didn’t realize we had finally finished all the prerequisites for finally coming together.
Have we found our karass?
A group of people who, unbeknownst to them, are collectively doing God’s will in carrying out a specific, common, task. A karass is driven forward in time and space by tension within the karass.