Some Strange Spell: My Kokosing Farewell Tattoo

Old Kenyon, we are like Kokosing,

Obedient to some strange spell,

Which urges us from all reposing;

Farewell, Old Kenyon,

Fare thee well.


A few weeks ago, at the Chamber Singers Spring concert, I couldn’t help myself from crying when the group sang “Kokosing Farewell,” which is, though not our official Alma Mater, a song that lies in the hearts of many Kenyon Alumni. While I’m not graduated yet, the song means a great deal to me, especially as my semesters at Kenyon turn into my last weeks.

While most of my friends participated in “First-Year Sing,” a tradition marking the end of orientation and the entrance into the college community, I did not. I wasn’t a full-time residential student until Spring Semester. That doesn’t make the Kenyon songs less important to me, however. On the contrary, my lack of a First-Year Sing was one of the driving forces behind my decision to create a short film about First-Year and Senior Sings, which was one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences of my college career.

When a friend’s family was visiting, upon hearing about the traditional experience and how I didn’t get a chance to participate, they had me and my friends sing the songs for them over dinner instead. I’ve heard the Kokosing Farewell countless times at Chamber Singers and Kokosingers concerts, and indeed, at the First-Year Sings of the underclassman. But this was my first time singing them myself.

As I look back over my time at Kenyon, the goods and the bads, the joys and the sadnesses, I am reminded that, no matter where I go in life, a part of me is on this hill. My time in college, as cheesy and clichéd as it may seem, shaped the very person I am today. I arrived as a self-conscious, insecure, and scared freshman. I didn’t like who I was. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Four short years later, I finally feel like myself for what seems like the first time in my life. No matter the problems I might have with the administration and certain decisions made here, being at Kenyon has very realistically shaped many elements of my life, and of myself.

At the end of Junior year, with my last year at Kenyon staring me in the face, I had some of these same thoughts on my mind. I’ve always been a sentimental person. I hate goodbyes. Even during the summer, I could tell how hard it would be for me to leave Kenyon.  

While I’d never really strongly wanted a tattoo, I’d often played with the idea of getting one. A bird, or a flower, maybe. Nothing had felt meaningful. Then, while walking around Gambier one day, an idea came to my mind that never left it. I wanted a Kenyon tattoo. More specifically, I wanted a Kokosing Farewell tattoo.

The words in my mind were some strange spell, three words which capture for me so much of what I feel for Kenyon. Those words represent to me all of the things that Kenyon has given me. I’ve had my heart broken, I’ve been sad, I’ve been scared but I’ve also had some of the best memories here. Despite everything, I love Kenyon for many reasons. It’s strange, but I do.

On the morning of Senior Soiree, two friends and I headed to Stained Skin in Columbus, where I was to be tattooed by Nicole Elisa (who I highly recommend—she’s fantastic). Before she started tattooing me, she asked what the words were to me, it was hard to explain in so many words the magnitude of what the words meant. Getting tattooed, accompanied by some of the best friends I’ve ever had, the day of a party celebrating the end of one chapter of life, is, in itself, the essence of what my tattoo means to me. I have never for a second regretted my decision to get it.

In five or so weeks, I will be leaving Kenyon. I will have a degree, but I will also have so much more. While I prepare myself to leave and move on to new adventures, I feel that my tattoo is a thank you for the last four years. The day before graduation, I will stand on the steps of Rosse. This time I will be singing. There will be only one thing left to say: Farewell, Old Kenyon, Fare thee well.


Image Credit: Reagan Neviska