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The Indefinite Future
Reporter’s Notebook 7-7-21

Temperatures warming up, COVID restrictions being lifted thanks to recent vaccinations, and entering into your twenties ... yep, folks. It’s wedding season.

By the end of the summer, I’ll have attended about seven weddings for my peers. Granted, quite a few were virtual and in one case I was a bridesmaid in a wedding where only 20 people were present. Nevertheless, as my bank account and the ever-increasing miles on my car can tell you, I am fresh out of college and my friends are ready to take the next steps.

As someone who attended a Christian university, I was a bit taken aback the first time I heard the phrase “ring by spring,” but as I entered my later college years, the phrase became a prophecy fulfilled more than a silly motto to laugh at.

Actually, a big reason why I’m doing a column this week is because I had to drive down to southern California this weekend for a friend’s wedding ... and next week I’ll be doing the same thing ... and then two weeks after that will be flying out to Washington for another friend’s reception ... and then directly leaving for graduate school after that.

It seems like now is a traditional time for a lot of big life-changing events. Friends getting married, finishing up degrees, starting jobs, having families, travelling. Even as I sit in my family’s home typing this, I’m distinctly aware that I won’t be here working at The Leader again next summer — I’ll be in Colorado indefinitely. I know where I’m going for the next few years, but after that, the future is a bit hazy.

My cousin feels like she’s had her life planned out since forever: play softball in high school, earn a good scholarship for college, then graduate with her teaching credential and return back to the valley for a position as a math teacher at a local high school and help coach softball there. I admire her grit; however I’ve recently learned that this planned-out life is actually an exception rather than the norm.

A friend of mine that’s getting married in a few weeks had plans to move out to another state with her future husband and work there; however, a new job opportunity threw all her plans out the window and after a whirlwind of interviews, crunching numbers, and trying to find a place to live, she’s found her future turning out a lot different than expected.

When catching up with old friends, we muse about who is getting married and whether or not to do more schooling, but also recognize that these supposed traditional paths are constantly shifting.

I went to college and am getting a graduate degree because I love learning and thrive well in school settings. However, other equally-equipped friends have realized that these traditional paths aren’t for them — and, in fact, shouldn’t have to be. That may make the future look hazy, but there’s some freedom in knowing that the future doesn’t have to be set in stone.

Even the friends that are getting married now have been looking forward to their ceremony but only have life planned out for the next year or two. Maybe this is just a typical realization for someone in their 20s, but no one really knows what they’re doing.

I think the lesson I’m learning from this season is that there’s some beauty in the indefinite — and more company than you’d expect. Whether that’s COVID throwing college plans awry, a job opportunity that’ll land you across the country in your 20s, mid-life major changes, or even facing retirement, it’s impossible to see what the future holds.

So, yes, I’ll continue to fill up my gas tank and make the drive to Southern California for more weddings, but instead of musing how they really have their life together, we can all rest knowing that life probably won’t turn out the way we expect it to be. There may be a ring by spring, but who knows what the next years will bring?


Autumn Neal is an OHS alum and has served as a summertime reporter for The Oakdale Leader for the past several years.