It’s hard to describe the imminent end.
It’s a rollercoaster drop–the split second of teetering precariously on the peak before the plunge. You’re sitting in front, and already the rush is yanking your racing heart into your mouth. Terror. Anticipation. Excitement. You see it coming, and yet–
In the moment before the fall, time stands still. You become hyperaware of what is and what is not, of what is important and what is, in the end, inconsequential.
It’s a weird feeling of stasis even as the days tick away, sand through a sieve. Free periods swallow your timetable whole. In your newfound liberty, you can attempt to work, of course, but you can also stand outside and watch.
It’s been windy recently, so the only thing spoiling the outdoors is the nakedness of the tree that somehow reminds you of your own transience. The world moves in slow-motion, sounds seeping into your senses. Against the backdrop of white and grey is us, shocks of blue and yellow stripes, blobs of navy with a flourish of calligraphy. Four-fifty-odd lives that you are out of time to get to know. Friends tackle each other in roughly grasped chance meetings. Couples loiter, leaning against railings with tantalising proximity and the hope of eternity.
Below you, a reminder of your fleeting time. Year Fives stroll across the bridge; it is a stage on which your immediate past plays out. There is no fanfare to mark the transition between Year Five and Year Six, but suddenly you are sans bridge, nearer the sky but nearer the end. The luxury of improved vantage comes at the expense of the luxury of having one more floor above your head, one more stepping stone, one year’s worth of concrete and plaster to get your act together. Eighteen years old, sans bridge and sans buffer, and you are out of time.
Everything is suddenly defined not in firsts but lasts. They tick off like a bucket list: last Founder’s Day, last IA, last competition, last performance, last class. Finality sets in at a terrifying pace; perhaps you start to panic. Perhaps you also start to regret–regret not working earlier, working harder; regret not seizing chances when you had them. You realise that very soon all this will be over and you will never again saunter in to the last few chords of whatever song they chose to play before assembly that year, finish your presentations with a semi-ironic obligatory ‘to God be the glory, the best is yet to be’, or have the excuse to sport blatantly lurid tones of blue, yellow and red (at the same time). People get drunk on lasts; as resolution approaches, they suddenly find it in themselves to bear nostalgic sentiments towards the things they previously mocked and loathed. There is a certain fear and intensity to loss that possession often lacks.
Our time in AC was always destined to conclude in this manner, but nostalgia typically rebels against the clean efficacy of our timelines and plans. (And what plans? Some of us have none and that terrifies us, but you are at the mercy of tracks someone has already laid out for you; retreat or stagnation is not an option.)
So, miss it. Overdose on caffeine and bleed your pens dry and stagger under the onslaught of deadlines and dream of your ivy-covered walls, but miss it.
The drop stares you in the face, the loss of everything familiar, but it propels you forward. There is no subsequent rush without it, no whirlwind of movement without the shock of descent. The end, but only a temporary one in the grand scheme of things. And so, in the words of Henley’s Invictus that ushered us into the school (an epigraph of sorts, for our fearful futures):
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
When she isn’t cooking up new universes with her midnight pen, Wen-yi can be found crooning tunes from musical theatre or making acerbic remarks at any creature, human or otherwise, who comes within 5 metres of her. She also enjoys veggies.