‘Tis the season to practically drown in your own nostalgia. In a true ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ fashion, my undergraduate education seems to have gone by in the same amount of time it usually takes me to finish a cup of coffee in the morning.
Lately I’ve been reading many articles about what college graduates would do differently if they got a chance to start over. With every click of a headline proclaiming that life does indeed go on after university, I myself getting hopeful that someone finally figured it out, and thinks the rest of us should just calm the fuck down. This is rarely the case, but I often feel better nonetheless, with this knowledge that I am far from being alone. Some, on the cusp of graduation, have finally figured out what they would tell their freshmen selves. Some have crushing regrets about their university experience. Others have compiled a list of things they would like to accomplish on campus in the short time that remains. Some, like me, are holding on as tightly as they can until it all ends.
I’m not here to say that everything will be okay once you finally have that degree, nor am I here to declare that from the moment one removes their cap and gown, life will only go downhill. I am not here to boast about how university years were the best ones of my life, because I don’t believe that to be true. I am here to reflect on what I consider to be one of the most important elements of the university experience, and that is the friendships we make, the friendships we break, and every acquaintance in between.
Yesterday I completed my final university exam. I have no more classes to attend, no more exams to study for, no more essays to write, no more tutorials to skip. There is a hole in my heart the size of Texas, but not because I will miss school. I’ve enjoyed being on campus more than anything, and the university environment has allowed me to grow so much that I can hardly recognize freshman me. It is not the lack of classes, of exams, of essays, or of tutorials that has begun gnawing at my heart, but rather the inevitable lack of encounters with friends on campus.
I was lucky enough to meet a group of people that have changed my life, and are now breaking my heart by leaving me behind. I remember that when I got my high school diploma, my attitude about friendships was radically different. Certainly, I would miss my two or three best friends, but I’d been told that university was where you met your bridesmaids. High school friendships were more superficial, mostly circumstantial, and the people who would truly understand me still had yet to meet me. I was half-right. Friends are often found in the strangest places.
Four years ago, I had not even considered that upon graduating, the loss that would hit me the hardest would be the one of my second family. I assumed that the fear of going out into the real world would overpower the somewhat childish fear of missing out on group hangouts. And yet here I am, watching my friends leave one by one, letting my tears flow freely, and hoping and praying that we will see each other soon.
As the great Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Sure, life gets in the way sometimes. We get busy, we lose touch, and we stop making an effort. It has happened to me, and I have no doubt that it will happen again. Sometimes we try to hold on too tightly to something that has already left our grasp. In the past four years, I’ve developed friendships that I know will survive the trials and tribulations of everyday life. There is a hole in my heart the size of Texas, and it keeps getting bigger with every person I say goodbye to. I am terribly sad, but I am also grateful.
I went to university, and I got a degree. But I also got a second family. I believe the friendships we make here are the most important. These may be the people who know you best, and if you’ve made just one close friend during your experience, you should consider yourself lucky. I certainly do.