Throughout my final days of college, I’ve made an effort to look around more. Whether I’m walking on campus or in my student-filled neighborhood, I’ve been trying my hardest to paint everything I see into my memory. It wasn’t until my last official class that it hit me.
This place will no longer be mine.
I have to accept that soon, a new breed of students will sit on this grass, fill these classrooms, crowd every corner of the local bars. I’ll come back to visit and everything will be different. The colors won’t look the same, the people unfamiliar.
But even though my school may change, the memories I’ve made here will not.
When I’m walking around, I think to myself, here is a place where I have failed. Here is a place where I have succeeded. A place where my heart was broken in more ways than one, as well as the place where it was glued back together again.
Here is where I have laughed and cried, sometimes in the same day, where I drank too much and slept too little and found some soul mates along the way. I have learned from this place, this world, this safety net, who I am and where I am meant to go from here.
I’d like to apologize to my school for being an idiot. I’m sorry for all the times I peed behind trees or puked in a bathroom that wasn’t mine. I’m sorry for all the meltdowns I had over faulty printers, for any time I skipped class when I wasn’t sick, for scratching my name in the wall of my freshman dorm room.
I’m sorry for all the ordinary moments I took for granted because I am only just realizing now how much I cherish them.
But even though I was a fool, you still gave me all you could. Thank you for introducing me to my best friends and the smartest professors. Thank you for teaching me how to live on my own, how to manage my money, how to get through the flu without my mother nearby. Thank you for letting me escape for a semester to study abroad.
And thank you, though I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you, for preparing me for any career and success I achieve in the future.
As we inch closer to graduation day, I try to remember it all. I don’t remember the name of the first frat guy I kissed, or my lowest test grade, or which shoes I was wearing when I tripped in the dining hall.
But I remember never being alone, because my friends were all within arms’ reach.
I remember eating pizza on the floor at midnight, no matter what year I was in. I remember learning about myself, about the world, about the strangers sitting next to me in class.
And I owe it all to this university.
I am already longing for my school, though I haven’t even left yet. I don’t want to let go of its hand. Because here is a place where, to most people, is nothing more than some brick buildings and a few broken sidewalks.
But to me, it has been both my greatest struggle and quickest source of comfort. It a place – a memory, an experience, a story – that I will forever call home.