On Graduation and Goodbyes
It’s that time of year again. The seemingly endless gray skies that plague Western New York through the Fall and Winter have given way to sunlight and (gasp!) blue skies. The air is warm, and campus feels alive once again. Everyone wants nothing else than to be outside to enjoy the warmth. Thank goodness finals are around the corner.
The Spring ushers in another milestone: graduation. As we near the end of the tunnel this year, fourth and fifth year seniors get ready to cut the collegiate umbilical cord and enter the real world. For some, this is an immense relief. They’ve got a real, big kid job lined up, and they’re ready to start writing the next chapter. For others, it’s a nerve-wracking, nail biting stress storm, for all the same reasons. For me, and I’m sure some of my fellow classmates, it’s something else. It’s pretty emotional.
Graduation is, of course, a celebration. It means that you have successfully navigated the sea of academia, and all of your struggles will finally mean something, they’ll earn their value. For that, I am happy for my friends, thrilled for their success and their future potential. But, all of this celebration is a sobering experience. It means that I need to face the realistic truth that I might not see some of my friends ever again.
It’s all well and good to think, “it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later!” and that may very well be the case. However, optimism aside, there’s a chance later won’t happen. My friends might move across the country, or the world, or be deployed, or go to Mars. Other friends might visit often, and keep in touch for the rest of our lives. Our kids could be best friends, or maybe they won’t be. I don’t know, and I can’t predict the future.
This realization used to create a sense of urgency, that I needed to see these friends as much as possible in the Spring, to create new memories, as if I needed to validate our friendship. Over my four years at RIT, though, I’ve come to accept that graduation is a fact of life, and that these kinds of transitions are more common than I might realize. Of course, it’s important to see your friends before they leave, to wish them well and say goodbye, but we don’t need to fret or panic. We only need to come to terms with the fact that we don’t know if this is our last hoorah or not, and, regardless of the future, the time we had is something to cherish and remember fondly.
This isn’t meant to be depressing, but realistic. I love my friends, and it’s always hard to see them leave. It’s especially difficult since I’ll be at RIT for a fifth year, and the majority of my classmates will not be around anymore. Close by or far away, a friend will always be your friend, and distance can never change that. We make choices that affect our “closeness” every day. It’s been one of the toughest lessons, and it’s an important one, one that we all have to learn at some point.
To all my graduating friends: goodbye, farewell, [insert Sound of Music here], and I hope to see you soon!