Glistening sunshine, flower petals dropping into the gentle breeze, a robin building its nest in the holly bush beneath my window — the signs of life were quite literally throwing themselves at me. 

I took a deep breath and thought to myself: “Wow, this fucking blows.”

I actually really like spring. It’s one of the only times the campus looks less like a gray wind tunnel and more of a vibrant place I want to be around. But I don’t think of warmer weather, or drives to West Meadow Beach, or the trees bursting into color. In birds chirping I hear my grandmother in a half-capacity funeral home asking God why she was alive when her son was dead. In falling flower petals I see the only woman I ever loved walking away without looking back. In all of these signs my world is returning to some sense of normalcy — but I can only find things I’ve lost and everything I’m leaving behind as I graduate. 

It feels like the credits should be rolling at the end of a coming-of-age movie. I should have learned something important about myself. I should be ready to move on to another part of my life. Instead, I find myself asking the same question over and over again:

Why am I still here?

Why do I continue the struggle? What’s the point of building up all of these things in my life if someone can eat a bat on the opposite side of the world and tear it all down? This whole pandemic I slaved away at my grad school applications and my charity work — I got into the program I wanted; my little plant sales raised over $2,000 for charity. Through all the shit, these were supposed to be things that would make it worthwhile, something I could be proud of. I was really hoping I could tell you it made me feel better. Sometimes it does but most of the time it just makes me feel even smaller, even more insignificant than when I started. 

So there I was, swallowing my daily dose of cosmic anxiety on the front stoop, when I noticed the bird’s nest under my window had been destroyed. All that was left was scattered sticks and bits of eggshell. I heard the robin chirp behind me and assumed it was trying to scare me off — she certainly looked judgemental from her power line. She tilted her head to the left, almost as if she didn’t understand what I was doing staring at her empty nest. I stood and stared back. Maybe I finally snapped from being inside all year, or perhaps things just started making sense. It felt like she was trying to tell me to move on — to build another nest and try again. 

The beauty in life isn’t in the legacy we leave behind or even what we have right now — it’s in continuing to struggle despite the loss. To acknowledge that I exist to build nests that will break and foster eggs that won’t always hatch. To know that one day, nobody will remember who I am or what I did — that ultimately I was just some monkey on a rock in an uncaring, unyielding universe who evolved just enough to feel sorry for himself. To understand all of that and get up each day and keep living anyway. That’s where the beauty is. 

Guess I’m off to build a bigger nest.

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