Every morning, my phone tells me the sun is setting two minutes later than the day before. Most students would be warmed by the thought of another winter ending and brighter days coming soon to wash away the snow. Yet, every morning, I cannot help but feel a slight anxiety sliding through the cracks of my blinds. Tomorrow, the sun will also set two minutes later than today. Each day will go by, dragging along the sun, until yet another semester comes to an end. Before I know it, days will turn into years, and I will, hopefully, hold my diploma in front of the all-knowing camera, with a proud yet bittersweet smile on my face. Why did it have to go by so fast?
I vividly remember graduating high school, as if it was just yesterday when we all threw our exam papers down the wooden staircase and ran through the streets of Paris under the rainbow of smoke flares. Although hope and nostalgia streamed through the air on that sunny day, I mostly remember the exhilarating euphoria of it all—the excitement of opening a new chapter in our lives. Mine was over 5,000 kilometres away.
Leaving France, the few tears I shed were for the downright incompetence of Canadian immigration services. But once I acquired my long-desired study permit, nothing could stop me. Montreal was waiting for me, and I was more than ready to dive into the unknown across the ocean.
I will always romanticize my way through life, but I have to admit that everything was far from perfect. As memories of my first year at McGill already start to fade into the hazy corners of my brain, I can still recall the quiet life I led in my new city amidst a world-changing global pandemic. But between the restrictions and the silent dinners in my empty residence room, I somehow found myself. I fell in love with the city and its people, laughed a lot, and cried a bit as well. I turned the unknown into a safe place, and even a home. These tribulations of uncertainty became much more than just a place of passage or a single chapter of my life. And as the weeks go by and the sand in the hourglass seems to only be falling faster, leaving this place seems unimaginable.
While moving so far from home was never scary to me, the idea of going back fills me with a sense of dread that I cannot escape. The thought invades me, and I sometimes find myself living in the third-person, watching myself from above, already nostalgic for the present and for the moments that glimmer swiftly in an existence. As my friends play cards, make dinner in the kitchen—mundane scenes of everyday life—I try to inhale it all before it gets buried in the hourglass.
Unlike high school, leaving college feels like a ticking bomb. As I already see myself sitting on my final flight back to Paris, I’m afraid of going back to reality, of returning to the streets I’ve known my entire life without enough stories to tell. My pre-emptive fear of missing out might very well be a product of every single coming-of-age movie overselling the college experience as the “best years of your life.” But the truth is, these have been the best years of my life, and it takes a lot to imagine a future better than this. As I’ve turned 20, I feel as if my free trial for life is about to expire soon and it’s now time to be an adult, get a real job, and then what?
But I find comfort in reminding myself of the chance I have of being here at all. I feel lucky to experience even this simple fear of growing up, and I know, deep down, that graduating doesn’t have to be sad.
Today the sun will set two minutes later than yesterday, melting the prints I left in the snow, but I’ll always know I was there.