I say this almost every day — today was one of the strangest days of my life. I began saying this phrase, genuinely, four years ago on the first day of my freshman year at Wesleyan University when the routine of my previous 18 years was first upturned.
I didn’t realize that I was overusing the phrase, even though every night at dinner in Usdan, Wesleyan’s cafeteria, as I reflected on my day, my conclusion was always that it had indeed been the strangest day. After a few months of this, my new friends called me on it. Surely, every day could not be the strangest of your life, they said. And yet I did feel that every single day I either pondered some new outlandish concept, witnessed something unusual happen on our campus or ventured off-campus to do something I had never done before, such as get my passport renewed or get stitches at the hospital by myself.
As my new college friends became my best friends, they began to understand my sentiment. Soon they, too, began to exclaim that their days were the strangest of their lives. In the next few years as we fell into a routine as college students the phrase was used less often, but still consistently. We said it when school was closed for a week due to a freak blizzard in October, when our bus broke down on a deserted highway in Maine in the middle of the night on the way to a cross country race, when I found a beautiful painting of a Rastafarian man being used as a sled on top of the snowy hill on campus, and when we drove halfway across the country to see our friends run a 20-minute race.
As my time at college came to a close, the life I had just begun to get used to again felt strange because it was ending. The day I didn’t have to apply for campus housing for the next year felt strange, as did my last track meet as a student-athlete. The day during senior week was strange when my friends and I walked nine miles around town as a large group just because it was the only thing we felt like doing during our last week together before we graduated. We called it urban hiking.
The most familiar activities felt strange because of the new emotions surrounding them.
Summers during this time were spent on Martha’s Vineyard and they did not feel that strange. My summer home stayed the same, my jobs were similar, and the people I spent time with and who visited remained relatively constant. But now it is December. I am still here and every day feels strange. For the first time my relatively normal Vineyard summer morphed into autumn and then winter. My seasonal jobs have ended and now every day again feels like the strangest of my life, in part because I spend each one differently than I have ever done before. This can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but not bad. Strange days mean transition or adventure, progress or learning.
Lately, I’ve been filling out countless job applications, writing cover letters, interviewing with strangers from all over the country on the phone, while also trying to be present in the here and now. I pick my cousins up from school and drive them to swimming and tennis, absorbing the details of their school days. I invest in waders and a thick wetsuit so quahaugging and surfing can continue in cold water. I cook and run and talk to people and research health care and homelessness and everything else I want to know more about.
I think from now on life will be made up of cycles of strange becoming normal. I don’t know where I’ll be living or working two months from now, but I know I’ll be thinking every night at dinner that it had been the strangest day. Hopefully, even 20 or 40 years from now will still bring the strangest days of my life, that is, if all goes according to plan.
Ceili Brennan is a seasonal resident of East Chop.