I walked across a bridge two days ago.
It was the bridge I used to walk across every day – but it wasn’t. It looked different. It ended in a different place. The starting point was the same, though.
As I settle in for a day of college hoops championships after a morning in which a sudden snowfall has already melted, leaving behind soggy yellow puddles of icy pollen, I wonder how far I’ve progressed from that starting point.
Realistically, I realize I’ve accomplished things. I’ve had a varied and interesting career that is shifting gears into its newest turn. I’ve been lots of cool places, seen many memorable things and met countless amazing people – some of whom even love me.
But as I stood looking at my freshman dorm, trying to remember exactly which window we used to sneak in after-hours visitors, as I waited to see if the train whistle would turn down the tracks under the concrete supporting my feet, I felt unmoored, disconcerted, insubstantial. I have done all those things, yes. I’m also looking to move, again, into another place that has belonged to who knows how many people before me. I hope for bricks steps and azaleas, but wherever I land, it will fall short of porches and dart rooms and bookshelves crowded with school pictures.
I have the sort of bank account that, even with regular contributions from my mother, triggers unsolicited emails offering budgeting advice and investment counseling. I make financial decisions more befitting the college girl hurrying to class across that bridge than a 43-year-old all-intents-and-purposes adult: discount shampoo but top-shelf vodka; no time or money for a haircut again this month but always game for a beer and a bite before tipoff.
It’s an odd feeling, regarding things that you first saw 26 years ago. I don’t exactly remember what I thought I was heading toward as I crossed above those railroad tracks – absent the ambient landscaping – two decades and five lifetimes ago. I’m sure it felt grander than this.
If I could be that 17-year-old again, or the 21-year-old I was the first time I left here, I would do so just for a few days and only if I could tell her not to be in such a hurry. It will all come, I’d say – the bylines, the jobs, the relationships, the Real World – everything you’re not seeing as you rush past, jostling the elbow of the middle-aged woman who clearly doesn’t have anywhere as important to be.
I suppose watching all these conference tournament championships exacerbates this ungrateful self-pity. I covered various levels of these, from the near-empty arenas of the Big South Conference first round to the raucous crowds of the ACC title tilt. I was in a big rush then, too – to get to something bigger and better, realizing too late that it was up to me to make where I was matter.
But, chin up. The NCAA selection show is on, my Gamecocks are a No. 7 seed in their home state, and anything is possible. I love these brackets in their pristine beginnings, as yet unsullied by ink or mistakes. I don’t fill in a blank copy as the teams are revealed anymore, but I still get excited. I’ll print out an online copy as soon as I can and pour over the possibilities, agonize over a few 8/9 matchups and try, as always, to pick the No. 12 Sweet 16 Cinderella. (That’s like fantasy football – everyone knows about it now, but what can you do.) I don’t actually participate in pools anymore, either – takes all the fun out of first-round bracket fires. But I will always fill out a bracket, because one must.
Later this week, friends and I will cheer on the South Carolina women’s team in the first round of the NCAAs here in Columbia. I’m also looking forward to catching up with other friends I haven’t seen for a while. There will be much laughter, no doubt a spot of liquor, and without question a TV – or iPad – in the room.
This rambling emotional roller coaster of a blog entry, which I wasn’t even going to post for my faithful 40 readers because I was annoying myself, demonstrates as well I can, however unintentionally and non-lyrically, the power of sports. To everyone’s relief, the self-pitying whinging has come to a halt –for now – and my thoughts have shifted to bigger things – basketball things.
I’m still kind of a mess, and you probably wouldn’t lose money betting I always will be (depending on the over). But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.