A few nights ago, during my last undergraduate class ever, the clock’s hands moved like a twitchy mustache. I couldn’t decide what to do with my legs. “College has been glorious,”I said to myself, “but I will never do it again.”
We closed the semester, appropriately, with The Tempest, Shakespeare’s final work. In the play, the girl Miranda has lived on a desert island since toddlerhood and as far as she can remember has never seen any person besides her father. At the end, when she meets people for the first time she cries:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t!
Even the ship on Dr. Veith’s mantelpiece (our class meets in his living room) pointed toward the front door expectantly. “Let me out,” I thought. “I’m done.”
But while I’m kissing my books good-bye and planning for the things I’ll do upon escape, I remember that the most important thing I studied in college was the human face.
The other night I stayed up till 4:30 a.m. to have a person-to-person story feast with one of my best friends, Danielle, knowing we’ll soon return to our respective parts of the country. We talked boys, jobs, about her growing up in Finland, about rescuing our GPAs, and writing books. We talked about the ways we feel we’ve failed in college, the expectations we’ve fallen short of, the bad habits we couldn’t kick, the people who seemed to be able to do everything right.
I thought of the D+ in Latin that grins out of my transcript like a toothless vagabond. She thought of outstanding internship hours and an overdue physics exam.
But I have eyes for Danielle’s face, and I have ideas about her future. I never think that her value lies in her performance or that her successes make her interesting. I know that Danielle’s big story comes from God’s imagination, and it stretches much larger than her achievements. And like Dr. Veith said, “All of God’s imaginations come true.” Danielle’s story stretches into this late-night hall and the way her nose wrinkles when she laughs.
In return, she excels at sharing the heat when my mind brims with creative fireworks. She never tells me I’m silly. We’ve shared this late hallway so often that she can easily trace my life themes, and I can trace hers. We have learned from each other things we will never learn from Shakespeare.
Like Shakespeare’s Miranda, life at college has taught us to the love our “brave new world” of faces even better than we love books. Occasionally we have to stay up all night to feel the full wonder of it. This is our final week of college. We may not have another chance to be so crazy.