Today was the first day in recent memory that I had absolutely nothing to do.
It’s exam week, but all of my finals this semester came in the form of projects or take-home exams, all of which were due yesterday. I’m done with both of my on-campus jobs. My internship doesn’t start for another month. I’m off deadline for the time being and I still don’t know what to do with myself after being on for so long.
This week, I took a walk back to South Green, where I lived for two years as an underclassman without living-off-campus privileges. I walked from campus toward my old dorm buildings (they’re both next to each other) and suddenly I was a freshman (or maybe a sophomore) again. It felt like I should have just been able to walk right in and cut through the mod to get to my room, where I’d toss my bag aside and flop down on my bed to catch up with the Kardashians via reruns for a bit before meeting up with my friends at Nelson dining hall for dinner.
That was then, this is now. They say that day by day, it seems like nothing changes, but when you look back, nothing is the same. That’s what I realized during my little excursion to Dirty South. Little by little, even the most irrelevant aspects of my daily life have slowly transformed, and I can’t help but wonder where it all went.
It sunk in a little bit more today. It was my friend Melaina’s birthday and a group of us met at Jackie O’s to celebrate with craft beer and chocolate cake out on the rooftop patio (we couldn’t have had a more beautiful day for it, either). A lot of us are graduating seniors, and there were a handful of juniors there as well. When we were getting up to leave, it took us about 20 minutes – and that’s not even an exaggeration – to get out of there because I think that’s when it hit all of us that this was it. We seniors are going to see each other Saturday at graduation, but this was the last time that all of us, as a group, were going to be hanging out all together. And that was a tough proverbial pill to swallow.
So we stood on the Jackie O’s patio for an obscene amount of time, hugging and crying and being in the way of other patrons, before we headed out the back door and into the alley that connects to Court Street. As we stood outside the Chipotle at the opening to Court, we all just kind of looked at each other with sentimental speechlessness.
Melaina, the birthday girl and a fellow graduating senior, was the one who finally and perfectly broke the silence: “Off to wherever the wind takes us.”
And off we went, after one more quick round of goodbyes. I realized that even though the winds of change might scatter us all over the globe as we head off into the Real World, the experiences we all shared at OU will always hold us together. We’ve seen each other at our best and our worst, and we are all better for having known each other.
And I made sure to tell everyone that. In the past, I’ve never been all that great at verbalizing things like this – I usually prefer to put it in writing, where I’m much more coherent. I also used to be so afraid of coming off as cheesy or overly sentimental or just outright stupid – but what’s so stupid about telling your closest friends just how much they mean to you?
So I did. For the first time in my life, it doesn’t seem cheesy to tell someone outright “You’re an amazing person and you’re going to do things that are beyond great,” or “I’m so glad I met you because I can’t imagine not having you as a friend.” College, like life in general, is too short not to tell the people you love how much you care about them. And as we all get ready to move on to the next phase in our lives, we need to encourage and support each other as much as we can.
On Saturday, I’ll walk across a stage and be handed a blank diploma to hold me over until the real one arrives in the mail a few months from now. But I don’t believe that my education stops here. There is still so much to see and learn from out there in the world, and I can’t wait for all the lessons that have yet to come my way.
And wherever the wind takes me, I know I’ll always have a group of friends to call home.