The first was that (at a time when, every day, I regarded myself as standing upon the threshold of a life which was still intact and would not enter upon its course until the following morning) my existence had already begun, and that, furthermore, what was yet to follow would not differ to any extent from what had gone before.
–Within a Budding Grove 74
Proust has summed up the entirety of post-grad life pretty well above me, and I’m not sure there’s too much need for me to flesh out my feelings beyond quoting him. Be that as it may, I have not yet given Within a Budding Grove the literary treatment it deserves, and so I’m going to do while I think about my future: post-college, post-D.C. life.
I think I prefer this second volume to the first, though my preference may be a result of how applicable I am finding Marcel’s stunted adolescence to my own life. I have almost as much anxiety as does our obsessive narrator, except, instead of young girls, I am preoccupied with the implications of moving back into my parents’ home and moving from one internship to another instead of into a full-time job. An intern is a Proustian protagonist: doing as much observing as she does working, and in between the worlds of the student and the professional.
I also find that as Marcel has grown in this book, and begun to find his initial fantasies lackluster when realized, the prose itself has become more involving. Perhaps I’m stalled in Vol. 2 because it takes more effort to wade through the levels of irony Proust employs on a sentence-by-sentence level.
If Swann’s Way was a preamble, Budding Grove, at least in the context of Marcel’s “suspicions,” is the realization that preambles are nothing more than the earlier parts of the present; that perhaps there is no thrilling and sudden change to which we can look forward, that our lives will go on in tandem with time. Most of the changes Proust has experienced thus far have been disappointments. Seeing his idol perform was a letdown. His emotions towards Gilberte are much the same as they were at the end of the last book (all-consuming obsession), and every moment of sexual advance seems to be paired with a conversely unpleasant feeling.
I spent a lot of the past couple of weeks unsure about what I was supposed to be doing, unsure about where I would be come next Tuesday. I finally committed to a future reality: I am moving back to New York, taking up residence in my childhood home, and beginning a great new internship at a company completely different from the one where I currently work. I will miss living in a new city; I am giving up some plans of independence that I had clung to. I am leaving my new favorite coffee shops, book shops, farmers markets, monuments, museums, my hilarious and wise older roommate, and most importantly my friends.
Of course, a higher percentage of my dearest friends live in New York City, not to mention 18 years of memories that come with their own coffee shops, book shops and monuments.
In D.C., at times I experienced the (perhaps childish) sentiment that my life was “beginning.” Being surrounded by different things gave me what might have been an illusion of momentum. My fear of going back to New York was that this momentum would cease when confronted with familiar landmarks and faces. I was afraid of moving backwards, but the truth is that I am not going back to the city I grew up in, and I’ll probably have to get used to New York all over again.
The second suspicion, which was really no more than a variant of the first, was that I was not situated outside of Time, but was subject to its laws, just like those characters in novels who, for that reason, used to plunge me into such gloom
Over the next few days, our undergraduate counterparts will be returning to our college for another year of rituals and all-nighters of studying or drinking, separately or concurrently. One of the best parts about college is that it’s four years where one actually is situated outside of Time. Things stay pretty much consistent whether you’re a freshman or a senior. Having graduated, we are acclimating to what it feels like when Time actually starts moving forward–or when it doesn’t, even when we expected it to. There aren’t markers like the first day of class or Spring break, there isn’t the refreshing cycle of shedding one semester and taking up a new one.
But, if my existence has already begun to move forward, it will continue to do so, even in the absence of a new semester or city. And, while I remain unsure exactly how I am getting home next weekend, I am excited to be reunited, along with many many other people and places, Miss Maeve and the greatest city in the world.