A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my dad about my future–which after next July, is wide open. At one point, he laughed and made the following comment: “You know that song, ‘My future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades’? Well, your future must be clouded by smoke, it’s so uncertain.”
So, senior week happened. And then graduation happened, too. And it hasn’t sunk in yet, even though I put on the cap and gown, walked across the stage, took the pictures, and said far too many “see you later’s.”
I could wax poetic about the highlights of my college experience or the ways that SLU has changed me over the past four years, but I won’t right now (although that will likely come later).
However, I will say this because it sums up my experience here in so many ways: as Fr. Biondi told us at commencement, “You are now sons and daughters of Saint Louis University FOREVER.” And I believe that, and I will forever treasure my time at SLU.
You will always be home to a part of me. The sentiment of what I said before I left Rome is true for you, too:
Oh, Rome, we’ve had less than four months together, but a lifetime wouldn’t be enough for you. After all, you’re the Eternal City–you’ve been here for thousands of years before me, and you’ll still be here after me. In a city of this scale, I never thought I’d really get my hands on you, but I’ve made pieces of you my own. And I haven’t left yet, but before I do, I’m leaving a piece of myself here too. I’ll be the girl in the dress sitting on the cobblestones of St. Peter’s Square, gazing up at the Basilica with a cone of gelato in my hand, still as completely in awe of you as I was my first night here back in August. Others may not see me, but a memory of me will always remain; you’ll know I’m there, and that’s enough.
Change months to years, and Rome to SLU, and the rest pretty well fits.
Soon, I will leave this place; others will take my place and fill the gaps I left. I’ll go back to my hometown–the only place that has shaped me more than you have–for a few months, then in August I’ll head off to boston for the year.
And before I know it, I’ll fall in love with that place to… and so the cycle will continue. I’ll meet more new faces, make new memories, gradually fall in love with another place and start to belong there, too. And after a year, I’ll move on from Boston, and it will continue again. Because that’s how life works if we are open to change.
As a wise Jesuit said at mass last night, “It’s happened before. It can happen again.”
And while that is so very, very true, I know that part of me will always, always belong here. I’ll linger in the hallway of 4 Walsh, on the benches in Xavier, and on the patio at Humphrey’s.
Thanks for the best four years of college I could have asked for.
[obviously, i wrote this a few months ago, but never posted it. backlogging it for my own info.]
Today is the last day I will spend studying and writing papers for a very long time. Tomorrow, I take my last final and turn in my last research paper of my undergraduate career. All of the stacks of books, mountains of research, hundreds of pages of writing, and hours of class have come down to this: one last Sunday spent studying. This is the homestretch. I’m almost done with undergrad. In less than a week, I graduate and begin the process of saying goodbye to SLU and the past four years.
Over the past four years, my college life has settled into a routine. There are certain things that have been predictable about my weeks: APO Chapter on Tuesday nights in Kelly Auditorium, Mass on Sunday nights in College Church, Penny Pitchers at Humphrey’s on Wednesdays, CLC once a week, Friday Lunch Club, and weekend evenings spent wandering up and down Laclede Street. These activities have been some of my constants over the past few years and they have provided my college life with a schedule and sort of rhythm that I have come to know and love.
And Sundays, well, Sundays are dedicated to comfortable clothes and stacks of books as I begin to prepare for the coming week. So as I take on this final day of studying, it seems only fitting that I do it in accordance with how I have spend the last four years. Sure, my roommate and I spent the morning at The Mud House rather than staying on our comfortable couch, but the thought’s the same. (Pictured: The Mud House’s veggie breakfast sandwich. SO GOOD.)
I’ve neglected this blog lately in the midst of end of the semester busyness, but I think I’ve also been struggling with writing about where I am these days because frankly, I’m not sure. I’m always a pretty emotional person, but the last week or so has been rough as I’ve attempted to understand myself and be honest about where I am and what I’m feeling. With graduation just around the corner, I’m going to keep trying, so in the meantime bear with me as I sort through the mess of emotions.
A week ago, I had to stop by my freshroom dorm for a meeting, and after my meeting was over, I couldn’t help but wander up to my old floor from freshman year. The names on the doors and decorations on the walls of the fourth floor of Walsh were different, but the smell, the feel, and the atmosphere were still the same. I halfway expected my friends to wander out of their (former) dorm rooms and ask if I wanted to go to dinner.
I lingered besides my own freshman door for a moment, and I pondered how much things have changed. I haven’t set foot on that floor in over a year, and I haven’t lived there for almost three years. In that time, I have lived in three different apartments in three different buildings, gone home for three summers, and studied abroad for a semester in Rome. Yet, I still instantly felt like part of me belonged there–just like part of me always belongs in the places that I have loved.
Leaving Walsh to go home the summer after freshman year was nothing less than traumatic for me. My friends and I were literally distraught about having to spend three months apart after growing so close over the previous year. After I finally managed to drag myself away, I updated my residence on Facebook. I couldn’t deal with the reality of the fact that I no longer lived in Walsh 447, so I simply changed it to say Walsh 447 (will always be home).
|Last picture of me in Walsh 447…taken right before moving out|
While my residence on Facebook hasn’t said this (or anything else for that matter) for quite awhile, the fourth floor of Walsh will always be one of the most important physical spaces of my life. It is a place where I found acceptance, where I laughed and cried and ate too many s’mores at midnight. It’s where I slept too little, studied too much, and wondered, wondered a lot. I used to sit in the window of that room and watch people walk by and dream about who I would become over these four years of college. Walsh 447 was a place where I endured those awkward beginning weeks of college, when no one really knew who their “people” were yet, and it’s the place where I cried goodbye with my people in May.
I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past few years about community (and will soon be doing much more within the context of JVC), and a lot of that thinking was because of SLU. While those lessons about community began in Walsh, SLU has taught me the value of community through other avenues as well. Gradually, these people who were once strangers have become my roommates, my best friends, my acquaintances, and my familiar faces around campus, and that is what makes leaving college harder than anything else. Because other things can be replaced, but community has to be built. And I have worked so hard to create these communities over the past four years, and now I have to leave them.
When I reflect back to where I was emotionally three years ago at this time, I am actually in a more stable place today. While I was a mess leaving freshman year, over time I realized that we would be okay. And it’s been that continued reassurance over the past few years of breaks and periods of separation that is keeping me from being a nervous wreck now, as I face a much more permanent separation in a looming future. Although if I am really truly honest, I will admit that I think the real reason I haven’t been freaking out yet is simply because it hasn’t sunk in yet (only 18 days left!).
For today though, I just want to remember where I’ve been and the one of the places that helped me get here. Walsh 447, here’s to you.
|First day of classes at SLU…Fall ’07|
When I arrived at SLU to begin my freshman year, one of the first pieces of advice that I received was “Don’t go north of the Fox.” SLU is located in Midtown St. Louis, an area that has been revitalized greatly over the past 20 years or so. However, the same cannot be said of the area to the immediate north of SLU. Just a few blocks north of the Fox Theatre, the neighborhood gets decidedly… sketchy.
However, for those who are willing to venture north (preferably during the day!), there’s a lot to see. North city was once a thriving area of St. Louis; it has some some incredible history, and the now deteriorating Victorian architecture attests to it. Most of Old North St. Louis isn’t pretty anymore, but there are a few gems.
One of those gems is Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis’s resident soda shop since 1913 and home of the best chocolate malt I’ve ever tasted. Walking into Crown Candy is almost like stepping back into time–like a little piece of old St. Louis that has been preserved for the modern day. And did I mention that chocolate malt? Because it really is the best.