My best friend is smarter than me, more talented than I am, most definitely taller and his name is Noah.
He is two years older than me, which meant that in high school, he graduated just as I was leaving the phase of life that makes you want to stuff yourself in a locker, rather than waiting for someone else to do it for you.
Since I have met him, he has acted as the older brother that I never had. He went through experiences two years before I had to deal with them, giving me several expletive-ridden accounts of his forays with college applications, girls and the real world.
During my sophomore year of high school, the conversation of what would happen in the following year came up frequently. He was leaving Vermont for a liberal arts school in Ohio and things would be undoubtedly be different.
Our advice to each other was consistently the same: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Now, it is my sophomore year of college and Noah is graduating from that liberal arts school in Ohio.
Since Christmas, the realization that he is actually graduating has hit me. We would talk about it, always with my prompting. Would he be going to grad school? Or would he find a job? Would he move home? Or find somewhere new to call home?
The questions were always to hard, the answers were always too vague, and we tended to land on “Well, we can just cross that bridge when we get there.”
It was a phrase that implied a lot of things, but most of all, it placed the future, a future that we didn’t want to deal with, into an ambiguous space where we no longer had to worry about it.
The two of us sat around insisting that one day we would arrive at these bridges, operating under the premise that we weren’t already on a bridge. But we are.
But here is the thing: If you’re already thinking about the future, you are already there.
That bridge you’re waiting to cross? It’s already here; the dreams you dream, the hope you hold and the aspirations you talk about in your head at night—those are all waiting for you right on the other side of the bridge. And that is a bridge you have an opportunity to walk across every single day.
Next month, Noah will graduate and he will be thrust from institutionalized higher education into the real world, whatever that is. If I did not think he could do it, I would not be writing this.
But I have watched Noah, with all of his strength, intelligence and gusto deal with situations and experiences far exceeding what is appropriate for a twenty-two year old.
The last page of the Great Gatsby holds some of the saddest, but most honest words I have ever read:
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter— tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
We are crossing our bridges every day and completely missing what it means to live in the future we have put off for so long.
As the school year ends, we allow a few tests to arbitrarily represent the end of another chapter in our lives. For many of us, including my dear friend Noah, graduation will be that representation.
We live firmly in the future, and we must not allow that to recede us or elude us. We must not allow ourselves to become victims of false promises of running faster or stretching farther.
We must beat on and cross that bridge now, rather than when we get there.