Alarm. Legs dangling off the side of the bed. Sudden pounce, stepping into the washroom. Stepping out of the washroom, towelling my face dry. Changing. Running downstairs, grabbing car keys, half a granola bar in my mouth. Garage door opens, car reverses, garage door closes.

September winds blow.

October’s frigid air and midterms.

November’s first snowfall. Rummaging the basement for jackets.

December with its short days and darkness. And exams.

Looking for cheap parking two minutes before class starts. Forgetting to pay at the dispenser, only to come back to a hefty fine on my windshield. Cue curses and looking up at the sky as I balance 3 anthologies on the medieval period in my frozen left hand. My frozen right hand fumbles with the car keys.

January and more snow, with a side of seasonal depression. Everything just looks and feels like utter desolation. Leaving the house in the dark, coming home in the dark. Does the sun even smile upon us anymore?

February and the mandatory slip on icy sidewalks. Two weeks of butt pain and 10 page papers due.

March and some warmth. The car is acting up but it better shut up with its problems because neither do I have the money nor do I have the temperament or time to sympathize with it. It makes eerie noises as I reverse it but ignored it must be.

April showers. And my GPA cowers.

Summer. Earn some money, pay off those loans.

August – wait, what? September…again?

Today, I dressed up and drove to campus: not for classes but for my graduation photo shoot. I was calm. My hands rested on the steering wheel and I looked straight ahead, taking in the familiar scenes of eight semesters and sixteen seasons passing me by. The truck rental warehouse. The Toyota dealership. The Tim Horton’s that served me many a coffee. The Shell gas station. The movie theatre. The Wal-Mart. The grassy plains where, for four years, a billboard stood advertising a potential housing scheme that never happened. The North Saskatchewan river, freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing. The valley. Oh the valley.

The expensive parking lot that gave me grief.

I walked into the studio and donned the regalia. She gave me flowers and I held them in my hands. She told me to tilt my head and look into my future. Smile, she said, for you have a bright future ahead of you. I wanted to ask her how she could say that with such surety but I had to smile at the camera. Click. Flash. Next pose.

Then she gave me a rolled up blank paper with a red ribbon around it. Your degree, she laughed. I laughed with her and said – here it is, the piece of paper I gave my blood, sweat and tears for these past four years. She laughed more. Then she told me to stop smiling. Lets do a serious pose, she said.

So I stopped smiling. Click. Flash.

Four years. One thousand, four hundred and sixty days. Thirty five thousand, two hundred and fifty six hours. So many, many minutes. So many seconds. Oh, the seconds.

I walked back to my car today, in the same parking lot, a perpetual, wistful heaviness on my heart that was neither sadness, nor happiness, nor remorse. It was something along the lines of a question without a question mark; a rhetorical question, if you may. And it said to me: it is the end of an era, my dear.

It is the end of an era, my dear.

Or is it?