As I sit here in my cozy new UChicago hoodie and maroon shorts, staring at a pile of UChicago related things – I couldn’t help myself, the bookstore was having a sale – I am realizing that it only seems fitting that one of the Senior Week activities is a trip to Six Flags. The past four years have been a roller coaster – physically and emotionally. From figuring out how to take care of ourselves to finding our social scene and maintaining it even during the roughest academic quarters, it has been a whirlwind of ups and downs. The past week has followed the same pattern emotionally. I’ve been scrambling to see as many friends as possible -- evenings out, last-minute lunches, and house reunion barbeques have been more common lately than they have ever been, and my to-do list, which at this point ought to be shrinking, is becoming more and more populated, full of one last everything.
Now that it’s over, now that finals are done, I find myself at a loss for words. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the things I wanted to say the other night in the shower (which is, as we all know, the best thinking spot). Before I turned in that last final, I was limiting myself to a Facebook status a day concerning graduation, and now all I can seem to say is “Done.” Heavily “liked” statuses (which I took to mean nods of understanding and agreement) included.
“One more final, one more problem set, and then four fantastic years of learning and loving it over. I can't believe this is actually happening, because I swear people only graduate in movies. What am I going to do with my life? #uchicagoinotsosecretlyloveyou”
and my more eloquent:
“This is it. After 17 years of schooling, this is my Last Day. The last day for tests and classes, the last day I have an excuse to stay up all night studying for (not that I did, so don't worry mom), and the day when I can easily say that I'll definitely be going back to school because the idea of being done learning in a classroom surrounded by some of the amazing people I've had the chance to meet here (even the that kids) is killing me.
??Part of me just doesn't want to hand in that last final, because then that means its over, but I also recognize I need a grade for physics. This is it.”
I called my mom the second I turned in that final, on the way to our final Senior Night at the Pub. I told her, “Mom, I’m done” and started crying. She told me how she spent a few minutes in my kindergarten classroom the other day, thinking about how fast it all happened, and the waterworks began. I gave myself the walk from KCBD to Ida Noyes to get the tears out and then made myself stop. Walking into the Pub was truly bittersweet, a word which frankly doesn’t even begin to cover it. So much of it is about being done with school in general, and the uncertainty that follows.
Logically, it should be simple because I know what I’m doing next year, but this is where it all starts getting hazy. My parents always told us that going to college was imperative. As a child, it seemed like that was the last thing you did in life, and then you were magically a grown up. It didn’t occur to me until earlier this year that the same notion was what I had built my life around – it was as far as I had thought to realistically dream. No one tells you what to do after this, it’s all up to you, and there is no common path. It’s taking a bit to come to terms with, but it’s absolutely necessary.
And yet, just the idea of leaving the University is what’s really getting to me. I don’t know what to do with these feelings. I was so pleased with myself at high school graduation, finally getting to leave after what felt like ages, and here, I don’t want to leave at all. Of course, there is much more to do and say in life, and I trust that all of my fellow graduates will go on to do spectacular things, as they are spectacular people. Somehow, I’m not completely convinced that I have room for more memories, because as it does for all of us, this place holds a lifetime of memories. The Hogwarts comparisons now seem so accurate, as though every moment has actually been filled with magic and love, even those 4:00 am Reg study sessions and trying professors whose reputations precede them.
UChicago has taught us all the things it promised it would: how to listen, to think, and to critique, but most of all, how to passionately love. From relationships to courses, I can’t think of a single thing about this place I don’t love, no matter how much I’ve despised some of my courses. Needless to say, that night at the Pub, I began to enjoy the feeling that accompanies being done. Today, it was absolutely disgusting outside, and yet I loved every second of it: everything was perfect. In the fashion of a true nerd, I rewarded myself by watching the Scripps’ National Spelling Bee and inputting unnecessary caffeine.
To the Class of 2012, we’ve done it. We have learned to love, and loved deeply. It’s like that first love, the kind that stays with you no matter how hard you try to kick the habit, and I’m confident that will never change. Here’s to one more week, and riding that rollercoaster ‘til the very end. I hope that future classes can be as lucky as we have been. We’ll be back to double-check.