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In Providence: The Graduate

“I just know — for me — I’m not ready to go yet.”

It’s tricky. Not just for her, but for everyone in her position. She’s about to graduate from a local university, and she has no idea what comes next.

“There was a plan, because I had set up this job in New York. The job’s gone now. The company– I don’t even know if it exists anymore. They called to tell me — and I understood. I get why, but that meant everything was– I called my mom, and I’m lucky to have my mom and have, like, a place to go home to, but that wasn’t what I thought I was going to– we were saying at Christmas how my brother came home after college to, like, figure stuff out, and he stayed for six years, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I love my brother, but that’s not going to be me.’ I really didn’t want to– I love my family, but I really didn’t want to go home. I wanted to graduate and then a few of us were going to move to the city together. That’s all different now.”

Of the people who were going to move with her to New York, all but one have changed plans. Most are doing what she’s doing: Heading back to homes they’ve only barely visited since coming to Providence for school. One found a job outside the United States, but not in the field they wanted, and another bought a ticket for a place they’ve never been to before and the rest they’re going to leave up to chance.

Then again, I guess we’re all leaving things up to chance these days.

As for her, lately she’s been considering staying in Providence.

“I think it’s just because I can’t go forward, and going home feels like going back, but staying here– I have a place here, and the landlord was like, ‘You can stay here through the summer if you want’ so I could do that. The place where I work is going to start reopening in the next few weeks, and, it’s like– I like it here. It’s safe. I feel safe. I feel safe with how, like, everything here was handled. I know it wasn’t perfect, but it’s better than a lot of other places. Why would I go home to a state where they’ve handled all this so badly? You read about how the places that are going to see their economy bounce back the fastest are the places that handled things aggressively and started out early when dealing with all of this, and that’s Rhode Island. I just know staying here would be like staying in place, but that’s still better than going back, right?”

Her mom isn’t crazy about the idea, but when they talk about it, she has to admit that her daughter might be better off in Providence than a lot of other places, including the red state where she’s from that’s starting to see its infection numbers tick upward.

“I worry for my family there and I want to see them, but once I go there, I’m there. I just have this feeling like that’ll be it for me. I spent four years getting this degree and what’ll it be for? I don’t really see myself in New York anymore, but I’m just hoping there are other options, because we can’t all just stay where we are for the next few years. Somebody’s got to move. That’s how people are. They need to move — it’s like sharks. If we don’t move, we die. I’m cool with staying here through the summer, but after that, I need to know where I can go.”

On Saturday night, she was sitting in her apartment with all the windows open listening for familiar sounds and finding silence instead. Her roommates were both in the kitchen sharing a pizza, and the mood was quiet, if not somber.

“The three of us went up to the roof last night and sat with each other. We’ve gotten really close; they’re two of my best friends. I think everyone is sad that we’re missing graduation and everything, but I don’t know if it’s hit us yet that this is it. Like, it still feels like we’re all going to be back here in the fall for another year, because all these things that tell you that you’re done aren’t there. When I remember to do it, I look at my roommates and I try to force myself not to take the time we have for granted, because after this, I don’t know when we’re all going to be together again.”

I asked her for pictures from the roof, and she went up and took some for me.

From that rooftop, you get an immaculate view of the Providence skyline and beyond. A view like that seems to present endless possibilities scattered across the horizon, even if right now, they’re a little farther out of sight.

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