You’ll remember that one Professor who changed the way you thought about everything. The one who challenged you, enraged you, encouraged you and eventually helped you realize all that you’re capable of. They may be the one teacher you keep in touch with as you age, or they may eventually fade into just another name that you hear in passing. But no matter what becomes of either of you, their influence on you will last. They taught you how to push your own limits and it’s a skill that you cannot unlearn.
You’ll remember the weird jobs you worked. The tables you served, the orders you took, the long hours that passed behind an empty desk, waiting for the phone to ring or the clock to strike or the office to erupt into chaos around you. You’ll remember what it felt like to be over-worked and undervalued, over-extended and underwhelmed. You’ll remember the strange coworkers and overnight shifts. You’ll remember dreaming of less chaotic workplaces and failing to appreciate the blissful absurdity of the one that you had.
You’ll remember your college relationship. The one you swore was going to be it, that was going to last forever, that was going to survive the real world because you were the exception to the rule. You’ll remember every dorm party you stumbled into with them, every lazy Sunday afternoon you spent watching TV with them, every test you neglected to study for because their studious face was so sexy that you had to pry the textbook from their hands. You’ll remember the first apartment you moved into with them and the first time you ever felt like this might last forever. You’ll remember the moment when you realized it wouldn’t, and the unparalleled sense of failure that accompanied it.
You’ll remember the worst class that you ever took. You’ll remember the long nights in the library, the group projects that enraged you, the challenges you couldn’t seem to rise to no matter how hard you tried. You’ll remember the infuriating ticking of the clock in that one lecture hall where you took your most gruelling exam. You’ll remember the fire under your fingers as you struggled to pull together words. You’ll remember feeling drunk at 4am in the library with a group of friends you’d take a bullet for. You’ll remember the number of your Adderall dealer, long after you’ve forgotten the numbers of your closest friends.
You’ll remember your greatest mistakes. The trip you blew all of that money on, the class you completely flunked out of, the person you let go of prematurely and never stopped missing completely. You’ll remember all the ways you felt inadequate over the years and all the people who rushed to your defence. You’ll remember the friends who picked you up when you were down, the mentors who saw more inside you than you did, the family who didn’t give up on you, even when you were at your worst. You’ll remember so much good twisted into the bad because that’s what it’s like when you’re so young and figuring so much out so quickly – there is still redemption left inside of every mistake.
The long hours in the lab, the dramas you agonized over and the crippling pressure to always be better than you are – they’ll all become memories so ancient you can barely recall them. You’ll forget how nervous you were on your first day of school. How terrified you were on your graduation day. You’ll forget so much about every joy and pain that stretched in between those two events, but what you’ll remember is this:
You’ll remember the community you built during college. The clubs you joined, the friends you made, the debates you held at 3am in residence hall lounges that changed your perspective on everything. You’ll remember what it felt like to be a part of something bigger than yourself. To be a part of a community whose collective capacity for change and progression was larger than anything one person could aspire to in their lives. You’ll remember what it felt like to be inspired by that community. To be changed by it.
You’ll remember the feeling that all of it was going to last forever. That what you had would stretch beyond the limits of that campus, that lecture hall, that house you crowded all of your friends into or the home you made with someone you loved. You’ll remember the absolute naivety of thinking that anything that wonderful could go on forever, but you’ll be glad that you thought it anyways. That you got every one of those years of blissful ignorance mixed with immeasurable growth and that nobody can take a single one of them away from you.
Because what you’ll realize about college after it’s over is that none of the best things in life last forever.
But that it doesn’t have to stop us from appreciating every last second of it while it lasts.