About a month before I graduated college, I had a meeting with my campus minister. She asked how I was feeling about graduation approaching. I responded, “I don’t really feel anything.”
One of my favorite TV shows is Scrubs. I remember in high school when it was actually airing I had a few friends that shared a love for the show with me. When the show ended, I missed the finale. My good friend told me that I needed to watch it before we graduated high school. I made sure I did. He wanted me to watch it before that was because its message is so appropriate when leaving somewhere you’ve been for a while.
The message shared that when you leave school, work, anywhere that you’ve been, it doesn’t stop. When you graduate, the school doesn’t stop functioning. The organizations you were a part of don’t fall apart. The friend’s who aren’t leaving yet are fine without you.
I think a difficulty in graduating is accepting that all the things that you were a part of will be ok without you. To think that something or someone you may have made an impact on will be able to function just fine without you. It is a hard concept to take on faith. But the truth is they all are ok.
I remember my last moments at Assumption on the day of graduation. I hugged my roommate of four years and felt my eyes well up. I quoted our favorite film with him and walked down the stairwell. I went out the unalarmed fire exit back door of my building, like I did every day, and walked to my car. I walked up to the driver’s side door and turned around to look at the building that had been my home for a year. I felt the tears come back a little. I wiped my eyes, got in the car and drove away.
All summer long people have been telling me that I was going to be bothered come the end of August. The time when students would be moving back to school, I would start to become emotional and upset. This idea seemed like something I couldn’t relate to. Sure I was sad that last day. Who wouldn’t be? I was saying goodbye to my home. But the greater idea of “missing college” was one I didn’t quite worry about.
A big part of my senior year was the Campus Ministry Core Team. Alongside 14 other faithful individuals, I promoted faith life on campus by leading retreats and attending faith based events at Assumption. On August 16, I received an email from my former Campus Ministry director. The subject line said “missing you on move in day”. It was an email to all the recent graduates from the core team. It was a few lines of sharing sentimental thoughts and then asked if all of us could share our current life updates. One of my closest friends, a senior this year, moved in on this day. I talked to her so many nights on the phone hearing updates about the team and talking about how weird it was that I wasn’t there.
It was in this moment that I felt all those insecurities. Every person that told me I was going to “miss it” and “be sad” come the end of August was right. I was so sad. At the time, I couldn’t even tell you why I was so emotional about it. I just hated not being a part of it. I hated not knowing things and needing to get nightly phone updates. I felt like I should be there to hear it firsthand. Of course I knew I couldn’t do this. But I wanted to. I missed my home.
I had to go up to school on August 21 to meet with a professor and all I thought about the whole drive up was, I can’t wait. I wanted to get back to MY Worcester. I wanted to see MY Assumption. I wanted to walk on MY campus. The reason I was meeting with a professor is because I am in the midst of applying for a Fulbright scholarship to be an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Vietnam next year. I was traveling back to school to meet with her and get a firm start on this process.
But again I was there; I wanted to see MY professors, visit MY friends and be at MY home. After a good meeting with my advisor, I saw some old professors and updated them on my life and them on theirs. Afterwards I met with my old mentor at Assumption and talked a lot about Fulbright and future plans. I saw an old friend and he had to ask, “Are you being a creepy alum and coming back early?” He knew that wasn’t me, so I quickly informed him about Fulbright. I then went and got a coffee from MY favorite coffee shop in Worcester (BODOs of course). I returned to campus and met with the newspaper staff; I used to be an editor and visited MY former office. I then got a call from my close friend (the one who I had all the phone conversations with) and we decided to meet before her meeting and it was surreal.
When I first met this girl at the beginning of MY senior year, she was the quietest, shyest little thing I had ever met. By the time I said goodbye at the end of senior year she was the loudest, most vibrant, hot mess I knew. During our very recent phone conversations, she talked about being nervous fulfilling her position with my graduated and gone. We had worked and learned a lot together, so I was terribly nervous for her to be back without me. But when I pulled up to see her, like I said, it was surreal.
I don’t know what it was, but it was as if she had grown up. I had seen her no more than month earlier. And she didn’t look very different. But from shy girl, to hot mess, she just had herself together. She was confident and mature. We talked about the team training she had been involved in so far and how it had been going so well. She gave her phone a quick look and said she had to run to her meeting. She gave me a hug, gathered her things and left the car. Usually I was the one leaving our chit chats for meetings, and here she was, all grown up, taking it all on like she should be doing.
I met up with my old roommate and we caught up for a while and then had dinner with another close friend. During dinner, my friend was overwhelmingly stressed. She was about to start her first big graduated girl job as a history teacher. She ordered a strong drink and I thought she was going to burst into tears. I have only ever known this girl to always be put together. While I have seen at her at some of her worst moments, I have always seen her at her best. But here she was Bachelor’s degree in hand, about to start this big, unknown journey. All I said was, “you’re going to have your FIRST class at some point, why not now?” She seemed to leave a bit calmer and collected.
I went back to school to visit the close friend. She had to let ME in MY old apartment building and I even walked by MY old apartment. It was such an obscure thought to see that door which I had passed through countless times and now be so aware that it wasn’t MY room anymore. But I walked into HER apartment and got the tour. She showed me around and we went and visited some other friends. We then took a walk around MY old campus and it began to fully hit me. It wasn’t MY campus anymore. It was HERS. It was every other senior’s. It was every student in attendance of the school and every student that would soon come. But it wasn’t MINE anymore.
We came back to her apartment and as we were saying our goodbyes, she walked me downstairs. I told her I was going to go out the unalarmed fire exit door in the back and she told me not to. But I said with a sense of timely wisdom that I had gone through it literally hundreds of times last year and never once was it a problem. We said goodbye and as I walked through the door, a campus police officer pulled me over. I literally couldn’t believe it. He asked for my student ID and luckily I had it in my wallet. I handed it to him and he demanded my room number. I gave him my old one and he said my RA would be in touch soon. He drove away and I laughed. I really hope he got back to the station to enter my information and realized I wasn’t a student there anymore.
As I stepped up to my car door in that parking lot again, I spun around and looked at the building that was no longer MINE. I thought about how this campus isn’t MINE anymore. The professors aren’t MINE to learn from and the experiences aren’t MINE to live out. They are all there for them. It was in this moment that the Scrubs’ season finale really came back to me. And I thought about the one of the last lines said before the end which felt so appropriate as I shared this last moment with my old home.
“Even though it felt warm and safe, I knew it had to end. It’s never good to live in the past too long. As for the future, it didn’t seem so scary anymore; it could be whatever I wanted it to be.”
I drove home and said goodbye to Assumption College. It took me the whole summer to realize it, but it was time to leave. And now I fully knew I was leaving it in good hands and there was no reason to worry. It was all going to be alright.
This past Monday was the first day of school for Assumption. I woke up in my mother’s basement, not my apartment or dorm building. I made my own breakfast, didn’t go to the on campus Dunks or Taylor dining hall. I sat at my computer to job hunt, didn’t walk to class and get a new syllabus.
I am not in college anymore.
And that is OK.
My friend, the teacher, had taught her first real classes and survived.
My friend, the senior, had an amazing first week, and I am so so proud of her for doing it on her own and being the amazing independent leader I’ve always known she is.
I found out that having a degree can get you a job that pays A LOT more money than not having one.
While there will be plenty of bittersweet moments and memories to surface in the future, accepting things as they are seems to be a good plan for now. I don’t care to still get every daily update from Assumption.com on my email and it is sad when my friend is unable to say “let’s meet in the lounge to chat”, but as the quote says, here is my future; it can be anything I want it to be.
Time to work.