Forever Orange and Blue

I went to a sleep away camp for seven summers. Upon being forced to leave at the ripe age of 15 without the promise of returning the following summer as a camper, I thought no goodbye would ever be as hard as that one endured. I thought that I could not, and would not, ever cry that much again—and I really could not for a good three months afterwards, running with the joke that “I ran out of tears.” For those that didn’t attend the arguably trivial institution that is an isolated-eight-week sleep away camp, this reference is very possibly just as, well, trivial. But let me put it another way. Picture this: your childhood, your seeming peak as an adolescent, and your comfortable escape from the heighted pressures of the other 10 months of the year marked by elementary-to-middle-to-high school…ripped away even if you’re not ready. That was what the end of summer 2008 was like for me. And don’t you worry, readers, almost six years later and I am—somewhat—beyond the echoing reverberations of my “hell no, we wont go” chants. 

But sitting on the quad yesterday, joking that the influx of sun-dressed students was the equivalent of some sort of seasonal Armageddon, I felt an all-too-familiar pain. Like that gut-tightening, chill-inducing awkwardness that unconsciously afflicted your being as you spotted your crush for the first time in sixth grade math class. Pulling a “Wicked,” I asked, what is this feeling so sudden and new? Not so new, yet very sudden, I was thrown back to my days as a reflective summer camp teenager. Overlooking the Adirondack’s Brant Lake, in the tangible simplicity of a uniform, I contemplated the impending doom of finality. Today, the setting has changed from Upstate New York to Central Pennsylvania and the rigor of balancing the social and the academic has surpassed the annual challenge of winning Team Sing, but the ever-so-uncomfortable feeling was, well, ever-so-present.

 

The number 2015 that marked my 2010 acceptance letter to Bucknell felt like a lifetime away as a high school senior; something solely achievable through the use of a Delorean. Yet, as we’ve been told, time has quite the skill of getting away from us. And here I am, somewhat breathless despite what in the moment of experience felt like a slow motion projection of class-to-Bison-to-lib-to-downtown-to-wakeup-to-class lifestyle. Does this make sense? I just want to hold my hand out, like I’ve done countless times for Vicki of the lib café to return my BUID. In that transaction, I not only want to get a medium iced coffee with Lactaid milk, but also just to simply hold on to the here, the now, the…this…thing we call Bucknell.

When my first co-president of Her Campus Bucknell, Sarah Dubow ’13, wrote to me in her piece “Some Parting Words…” I ignorantly thought I would never have to see the day that she so defiantly looked in the eye. And I’m lucky to say that I still have a few days until I truly have to don that black cap and gown. Yet, I return to her piece for inspiration to try to make sense of all this: the latter word, “this,” which is seemingly appropriate considering all the ambiguity that plagues my final days. While Sarah announced her attention to avoid the sap, I am—after all—the “Ashley…to [her]…Mary Kate,” and in blaming character dichotomies, I will capitalize on just that: the sap. 

There’s something about this place that we call “the Bubble,” “the Burg,” “the Nell.” It has the youthful magic of—dare I say—Disney World and the hopeful opportunity that mimics an Eleanor Roosevelt quote. But within this bubble, there are also more difficult-to-discern phenomena that make a nostalgic senior like myself sit on a quad and ponder like a veritable Thoreau on Walden Pond. My relationship with Bucknell has been one of days of love and days of hate, and in this somewhat fickle relationship, the University has made me, me. So, in rambling on as I’ve done for four years within this magazine, I am ready to verbalize just a few reasons why I—in this seemingly love-hate affair—will miss Bucknell.

  • There are figurative and literal pathways always guiding you. As a tour guide, I have received countless comments from nervous prospective families about “how nice it is that there’s a path to every location on campus!” Quite the trivial realization as a potential applicant, but hey, it’s true. At Bucknell, there are not only literal but also figurative paved routes to your desired destination. Getting from Coleman to Vaughan Lit. is as easy as a straight shot and getting from confusion over Kant’s morally good to incorporating it in your final paper for Lit. Theory is an understood step-by-step action. Over four years at Bucknell, you learn to develop and eventually mindlessly follow a smooth plan of attack: a flawless left-right-left sequence to successfully solve every problem. That, seemingly only present in this bubble, is a gift.
  • It took me three out of my five months in Granada, Spain to finally understand the social scene. This might be an isolated case, as my fellow abroad-ers didn’t seem as challenged, but there’s a palpable truth in this conundrum. So, dare I say it, I will miss the Wednesday, Friday, Saturday going-out grind that is our social scene. I have traveled the world and I’ve yet to discover another place where being social involves being your most authentic self. But, hey, I am eager to be proven wrong; so readers, please do let me know if you have found another place where jumping to some obscure techno beat is considered skilled dancing, where a thrift store ensemble is just as esteemed as those of Fashion Week, and where Natty Light simultaneously soaks—ergo, cleans?—floorboards while tasting like the nectar of gods. Okay, so maybe the last point is a bit of a stretch, but there’s a welcoming easiness to knowing that something will be going on these three nights of the week and that this something will not judge you for sweating through your somewhat unacceptable themed outfit.
  • You can walk to class and say hi to five people you know and five people you don’t know and get the same friendly smile back. At age 3, we were asked to list our favorites: favorite animal, color, number. Number? And yet, in questioning, I think I have finally found mine: 3,500. While Bucknell has taught me that a smile and a wave go a long way, it has also showed me what it’s like to be a part of a community in all senses of the word. While high school was far from any sort of alliance or group and I adopted the favorite number of one, over the past four years, I have been able to dismantle years of barrier making and isolation…all in a comfortable environment. There is an age-old saying: where there is a will, there’s a way. And at Bucknell, it looks a lot more like: where there’s a club, there’s a way. In this accepting sphere, I was able to broaden from the timid and denigrated teen I once was through the endless opportunities of growth found in organizations, activities, events, and, simply, ceaseless activity. (Shout out to you, Her Campus Bucknell!)
  • As the creativity drains from me and I am filled with reminiscence marked by a lump in my throat, I resort to a weakly phrased final bullet point: the people you meet along the way. That you can just walk into an office with a visibly open door and receive all of the guidance of a psychologist, a scholar, and a parent. That you can walk into the first floor of the library (get a coffee) and find someone to spend the rest of the day with, bantering over homework and procrastination. That you can make it only a few steps across the quad before having a professional yet amicable conversation on a recent assignment. That you can walk into the Bison and fearlessly sit down with a friend of a friend. That you can just text, call…out a name and someone will come running (and not necessarily James Taylor). I’m petrified to graduate. I’m petrified to leave this place I have come to call home. But I am even more petrified, beyond petrified, to leave what is this blissful ability to have immediate support, immediate friendship, and immediate guidance no matter what, no matter when. You can take one look at the Bucknell website and realize the incredible caliber of professors of which we are lucky to work with. Not so obvious, however, is the incredible caliber of friendship we—I’ve—made over these past fours. I’ll say to a prospective family tomorrow and I’ll say it 10 years from now; everyone who is here, in this tiny school in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, wants to be here, and that—in both academia and social activities— is evident.

During my first summer at camp, I wrote a letter to my older self, my final-summer self. In characteristic Elizabeth fashion, mine was pensive and far-too-serious:

Dear Elizabeth, I am so proud of you for making it to peak summer. I am sure you have enjoyed your past seven summers to the fullest, but even so, please know that it wasn’t easy and you did it all on your own. I can’t wait to see you become like Peaker Melanie and continue to love camp day in and day out…Love, Little Lizzy.

Besides calling myself Lizzy and fulfilling my days as white team captain just like Melanie, I am reminded of this letter today as Liz; a different name, a different person, but with the same solemnity hidden beneath sarcasm. Lizzy could not have pictured 18-year-old Liz on Move-In Day 2011 nor have imagined I-will-never-join-a-sorority Liz on Bid Day 2012. But in retrospect, I know she’d write something along the lines of:

Dear Elizabeth, Please thank Bucknell for both you and me. Thank it for making you become the person you need to be to enter into the next stage of your life. And thank it for taking what was an affected high school teenager and transforming her into all she ever wanted to be but wasn’t able to at the time. Oh! And Lizzy says congratulations. Love, Little Lizzy p.s. are you still writing?

So here it goes, the hardest goodbye of them all:

Dearest Bucknell, In simplest terms and convenient definitions, thank you. I refuse to say goodbye; let’s just go with see you later. Love, Little Lizzy, Medium Liz, and someday-Bigger Elizabeth