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vacilando: when the experience is more important than the destination

Vacilando Redux


I graduated. And I finally understand what vacilando means! It first entered my vocabulary one month in to senior year. With a definition like "traveling when the experience itself is more important than the destination," I immediately knew it was a special fit. I view life as a process, where it's about the GOING, not where I'm going. It's about each and every scene, not the elusive happily-ever-after. An extension of my daily mindspace, this blog is an invitation to join me on the journey.

Yet vacilando has another, more obvious, cognate: "vacillating." I ignored it at the time because it didn't make any sense to me. Who aspires to be ambivalent, indecisive, wishy-washy, or flaky? Not me.

But here I am, seeking semantic reconciliation, thanks to a conversation with Dr. Gary Glass at Duke's Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS).

April 14th - one month before graduation - found me hugging a pillow on Gary's couch, lamenting the end of access and tight-knit community that my impending graduation would bring. Amidst my gloomy griping, Gary illuminated two words:

"Chrislyn, remember this: Gradual shares the same Latin root as graduation. Grad- means 'to step.' College was never meant to BE an end. It's simply another step in a gradual, lifelong process of learning. Now let's revisit your blog. While you were quick to dismiss the ambivalent connotation of vacillating, let's understand it in a different light, using the image of a pendulum. What is a pendulum created to do? Measure time through oscillation. As long as a pendulum swings back and forth, time continues. If it comes to a stop, time stops, and the pendulum is no longer a pendulum. Therefore, it is a beautiful thing to move, to journey back and forth throughout life, to experience its ups and downs, to be alive."

Gradual and pendulum. What concrete and liberating anchors for my "life is a process" worldview during this transition as a college graduate. I actually found myself crying by the end of his analysis, out of joy and relief. By unraveling my unresolved tension with graduation and vacillating, I felt formally freed from a pent-up dread to graduate, a deceptive denial of the full story told by vacilando, and an outcome (vs. process)-oriented lens. I'm not just a teabag; I'm a pendulum too.

As Martin Luther once wrote:

This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness; not health, but healing; not being but becoming; not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished, but it is going on; this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.

I'll miss undergrad. I really will. But it will always be part of me today and me tomorrow. So yes, Grayson Allen, "Let's GOOOO!" And go, and go, and love the going.