Resilient Reminders

End of the semester. I’ve seen some more shows and even been to the movie theater (VERONICA MARS!!!!), which is a nice change, but I’m finding it difficult to write my normal reviews and responses right now. It’s just the strain of the past month and getting back on track with my words of the year “core flow” and keeping up my meditation promise for Lent. Not to mention, my brain is probably going to be semi-fried for the next few weeks until all my final papers are in. One course down, three more to go.

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I’m tired and sometimes, especially like last weekend with the knowledge that Beer Bike reunions were happening in Houston, I get homesick. I think, “Wow, last year was so great. Going back would be fantastic.” But this weekend I got a little reminder of what life was like back in Texas and what it could be like now: the Rice University Visual and Dramatic Arts Junior class came for a weekend trip to Toronto.

As the date approached, I found myself less overall excited and more overwhelmed by a mass of emotions. I didn’t know how I would respond to this group of students, students that I sort of used to be. I thought I’d feel horrible hearing about preparations for upcoming shows, tales from campus social life, et cetera. So I prepared myself. In the moments walking from my afternoon appointment to meet them in Kensington Market/Chinatown for dinner, I ran through all the amazing things I have done since coming to Toronto, all the obstacles I have had to face and conquer on my own, all the fears and doubts and excitement and plans for my future. All the shows and theatrical performances I have managed to see–my ticket collection is getting fat. I felt pretty awesome actually.

We had a great meal together that night and then I helped show the entire tour group around campus (well, tagged along and made comments about my Performance Studies experience of York while my boss gave them the real tour of the Fine Arts facilities) before leading them through the many levels of the TTC to the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, way down on Queen Street West. In the pouring rain. I enjoyed seeing those familiar faces, even if they did seem totally out of place on streetcars and sidewalks of Toronto, what is effectively now “my” city. But I’ll admit I was exhausted when I left them; I was so tired from explaining what I’ve been doing and how the transportation works and the tiny differences between Canadian and US culture (there are plenty, but in moments like these I like what my Canadian friend says: we’re all American, North American). Because in the end, that’s what we talked about. There were a few discussions about what’s going on back at Rice, but I found myself not interested in asking a bunch of questions about the current shows or the way classes were running. It just didn’t strike my interest any more. I loved sharing what inspired me to come to Toronto and how I’ve found it.

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There was one question I did want to ask: What are you doing next? And it’s funny that I of all people would want to ask junior Theatre and Fine Arts majors from Rice University what their future plans might be considering that I would have dreaded that question when I was in their shoes. In fact, I not only dreaded it last year, but I’m also battling it now–during our lunch together, my boss asked, “So I’m sure you hate this question but what’s next after you graduate?” The funny part is that I can see the other side now. Yes, I’m annoyed that I don’t have a clear answer. It would make things easier on the surface. But I can also see why it’s asked. Once you get further in life, you want to get excited about watching others move forward. You want to be part of their enthusiasm and excitement for the future. And, at least in my case, I now realize that it’s okay to tell them that you don’t know. It’s not annoying; it’s honest and miraculously, this year I have been able to embrace the excitement of not knowing, as well as the usual anxiety for the unknown.

My new friends here in Toronto have been surprised the times I have told them about being homesick. They see me exploring the city, keeping busy with new art crawls and pub nights and theatre matinees, and making time amongst my studies for getting to know a wide variety of new people. Still, there was a part of me over the past few weeks that knew this head-long plunge into moving forward was also a mask to cover over the pain of letting go of the past. I would have loved to visit Rice in person, but thankfully, it wasn’t in the cards this year and I got just this taste. And this taste was enough to prove that I don’t actually want to go back there to the drama of living in such a tight community with even more work and grades pressing upon me. What I want is not Rice University as it is, but the way it shaped me and supported me. The best part is that although the people that made that possible, the graduating class of 2013, are spread far apart, I can still feel the love when I think back on the memories and when I send a new Facebook message, email, or letter.

Moments like this.

Moments like this.

I’d like to say that I’ll be finished next time I post, but I have a feeling that a few assignments are going to linger over my head for a while. Little victories . . . one day I will have the energy to write cafe reviews, theatre reviews, and most importantly, new scripts again. (At least now the Toronto weather is beginning to cooperate with that plan. SUNSHINE . . . yes . . . ).

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About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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