Fellowship applications, thesis, graduation. Seniors, life is flying by faster than ever before and you are trying to hold onto anything that will keep you grounded. I see your furrowed brows as you work feverishly in the library, transcribing research interviews and editing personal statements. The clock is ticking and the year that everyone says should be the most fun and memorable has turned into a year filled with endless meetings and appointments. Yes, the deadlines have to be met and the future cannot be ignored, but I want you to take a moment and breathe. Just breathe.
You have learned so much during your almost four years of college. You hold wisdom you are unaware of and if you would just listen to your own voices I think you would see that. As a sophomore, I am not going to pretend to understand exactly how you are feeling, but I did have the opportunity to listen to six seniors share some stories about their time in college. Alyssa, Jane, Mae, Marie, Scarlett, and Sophie* are all experiencing the roller coaster that is senior year. They have taught me so much and I now invite you to come along with me, listen to their voices, and allow us to show you just how accomplished, capable, and impressive you really are.
Reminiscing about her younger self, Mae shared, “Looking at one of my pieces of writing from elementary or middle school… I see that my desire to write stories has always been there, but I’ve recently learned how to cultivate it and hone into my style and the stories I want to tell.” Seniors, how magical is it that during your time at college you have found what drives you and excites you? You are in a place that has given you the opportunity to figure out what stories YOU want to tell. Sophie said that during her time in college she has “grown and become more invested in the things that [she’s] passionate about and academically more confident in [herself].” This passion which each of you has discovered is not something to take for granted. Recognize it, nurture it, and be proud of the fact that it exists within you and no one else.
“I think the most meaningful moments of my Brandeis experience are when I come home into my apartment every day. It means the world to me that I can come home and breathe a sigh of relief in a space that is safe for me with people that make me feel safe.” Alyssa describing what she calls “the pinnacle of her Brandeis career,” says it all. Seniors, look around at all the relationships you have cultivated. Those who you have chosen to surround yourself with can be your family for the rest of your life. These people love you for who you are and they are going to be there to love, support, and accept you as you continue to navigate life. Take time to thank them, be grateful for them, and always remember that you are worthy and deserving of their love.
Not only have you learned how to love others during your time in college, you have learned to love yourself. “I think I know how to take care of myself in a way that I didn’t before,” said Jane, as she shared what she has learned since coming to college. Loving and accepting yourself is not always an easy thing to do and it is a conscious, continuous decision. Whether it was through studying abroad, being in relationships, or even learning to live out of your parents’ home, you have discovered what taking care of yourself looks like. This is an accomplishment you should feel proud of. So, feel proud of it. Sit with that pride and know that no one can take it away from you.
“I was a lot more insecure and a lot more worried about what other people thought,” said Marie, thinking about how she’s changed during college. “I’ve grown in how I interact with people. I have amazing friends and family. I am so much happier than I was in elementary and middle school… I can say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.” This happiness is a beautiful thing and something I see in so many of you. I see it in your posture as you walk to and from class. I hear it in your voice when you confidently add a novel idea to a discussion. I feel it in your hugs as you send me off to an exam or rehearsal. You deserve to feel this happiness.
Seniors, you all have unique qualities that make you who you are and that’s why those friends who you value so deeply love having you in their lives. So “own your shit,” as Alyssa advised her younger self to do, and be the best version of yourself that you can be. As presidents of clubs, directors of productions, choreographers of dances, and leaders in classes, you have so many people who look up to you and are in awe of what you are capable of. Take a step back and view yourself through our eyes. It is not selfish or boastful to recognize all that you have accomplished. It is that confidence which you have gained that is going to keep you going.
As Scarlett said, “I would tell my freshman year self that you need to enjoy these four years of school because they are going to go by faster than you could ever imagine.” The days are turning into weeks and the weeks into months. You cannot stop time or move backwards, but you can control what you do with the time you have left. If you take nothing else away, I hope you remember this: Appreciate the foundation you have made for yourself. Allow yourself to revel in the vista you have created, Yes, there is so much you yearn for beyond the horizon, but take and breath and enjoy the view because time flies, but your journey is just beginning.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.