Dearest Kutztown Family,
I’ve never been particularly gifted when it comes to goodbyes. The concept of things ending has haunted me throughout my life. I get used to a certain routine, the way something is run, or even specific people that when those routines or relationships come to a halt, it hurts on a level I can’t often express in words. I struggled with this a lot when I attended therapy as a child and later as a teenager. I don’t know why I can’t quite form the words I truly wish to express to those I love, but everyday I work toward rectifying that. It feels particularly necessary here.
I love you all. You know who you are. The people who kept me up until wee hours of the morning, talking about life’s hardest questions. Individuals who gave me the biggest and warmest hugs on days when they could tell I was falling apart. Those brave souls who forgave me and continued to love me when I lashed out, plagued with fear. I’ll never forget the incredible trips to the bar, the bookstore, the record store, and many restaurant trips at all hours of the day and night. Those who made me laugh uncontrollably without even really trying. The smiles you’ve brought to my face and soul have always been genuine and will remain lodged into my memory.
Two years ago, I came to Kutztown without any feeling of purpose. I simply sought a degree and a fast ticket out. The prospect of meeting new people was testing my introversion and shyness in ways I hadn’t experienced before. Feelings of alienation and inadequacy plagued me. Yet, once I let go and started talking to people, I started forming small friendships that would get me through the day and tried to connect with my professors.
However, it was the fall 2017 semester that changed everything. I’ve talked about this extensively in other articles, but this was the semester in which I joined this little publication and formed and reaffirmed some of the strongest friendships I’ve held at this institution. I realized and named my dysphoria and found purpose in feminist and gender theory. While the road to healing has been bumpy and challenging, I’ve been able to confront memories and ideologies of my past and work toward being the person I’ve searched for so long. After decades of uncertainty and not knowing the face I saw in the mirror, I am working toward finding my true self, the self that I believe existed when I was a child.
To all of my incredible professors: I cannot fully express my gratitude to you. You helped open the doors to my soul that have been closed for so long. Your courses have expanded my understanding of the world in beneficial ways. My heart is so much larger because of you all; my empathy is renewed and pulsating with energy. I also must thank you for the time you’ve spent with me. Those hours before or after class where you talked to me about life, assignments, grad school, whatever the subject may have been. Your guidance and wisdom helped me on days when I most doubted myself, and the patience you awarded me is not only appreciated, but I hope to repay you in some small way someday. I’ve been amazed at my composure during the last week. People don’t usually believe me when I say I cry a lot, and this week has been no different. The thought of leaving the family I’ve made at Kutztown has almost debilitated me on some days. If it wasn’t for needing to finish my classes, I’d probably be a damn heap on the ground. I’ve become so connected to so many of you, it hurts to even imagine not seeing your smiling faces every day. I certainly won’t miss some of the stress and the nights of waking up in the middle of the night, sweating, because I had a dream about an assignment that didn’t exist but I totally forgot to complete and was naturally due the next day.
But your voices, the music that you all make with your intelligence and activism and bravery, is a song I will forever repeat in my head. I love voices. I’ve had several friends think that I’m mocking them when I echo their voice or euphemisms back at them, but it’s truly because I love hearing voices and the way people talk or use language, accents, etc. This is something that has stuck with me my entire life. Voices often warm my heart and make each person in my life unique to me in massive ways. Your voices are always so clear and beautiful in my mind and I hope to listen to them for the rest of my time on this planet.
It has been hard though. Goodbyes suck and while the sentiment is there that this isn’t truly goodbye, it still hurts to imagine my days without the routine of seeing everyone in this capacity. Even though I have commuted to KU during the entirety of my two years, I’ve spent more nights on campus for the last year than I have at home. I never imagined that would happen while I was here. What can I say? The late nights were totally worth it.
Again, I love you all. I love you with every fiber I can muster in my being. Those who I’ve known for a short time, but I’ve connected with in profound ways. My siblings in power at the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, Women’s Center, and LGBTQ Center, who have supported me in ways I could never forget or adequately thank them for. The people who have embraced the new me and continuously support me on this terrifying journey and offer comfort and nurturing words when they don’t need to. You have all made enormous impacts on my life and I leave this school completely changed for the better.
To imagine that all of this happened over the course of two years is unfathomable to me, but you all helped make it happen. I could have found my true self on my own, but it would have taken far longer if I didn’t have all of you to help me along the way. I am sad, but not in ways I have been in the past. My tears are more happy than sad, yet the sadness remains. The happiness is because of you though. I’m so happy to have you all in my life and to have met you and made some sort of mark in your day-to-day life. To have shared this time with you was an indescribable pleasure and honor. I am humbled by your power and love, and I am warmed by your embraces and inclusion.
Most importantly, I am happier for having spent my time and energy with every single one of you. Thank you, from the very bottom to the very top of my heart. How lucky I am to have something, and so many people, that make saying goodbye so hard.
-Tyler James McMaster