For many of us, it’s about that time to leave South Mountain and get down to scooping chocolate chip cookie dough at that ice cream parlor back home for the summer. Or, perhaps, to plump up a savings account with the earnings from a blue-chip corporate internship. Or maybe to go on an extended vacation to some sultry, exotic locale. All the while, though, the time until our return to campus funnels downward in a massive hourglass, and we’re assured that we’ll be back to heaving our books around the mountain in a mere 12 weeks.
For about a quarter of us, however, that’s not the case.
If you count yourself among those who balk at every mention of our imminent graduation; who have lost sleep over void planner pages dated from the end of May until, well, forever; who, after reading a certain Bloomberg Business piece, frantically changed the font of our résumés to Helvetica in the hope of scoring a prime job; or who have no idea what we want to do with our degrees, you may be suffering from a severe bout of post-grad anxiety.
If you do know exactly what you want and are already on the fast track to getting it, you are both an inspiration to, and an envy of, many of us. But you have not escaped — nor have any of us escaped — from the looming truth that when our caps rocket to the ether on May 18, we will have to say goodbye.
Goodbye to lazy afternoons spent lounging in The Chairs; to late nights downing coffee (and other beverages) in the library (and other venues); to lectures, to exams, to that pile of homework that never seems to shrink. But mostly, to the families that we’ve woven for ourselves, those intricate webs of love and friendship that have carried us through both triumph and defeat.
Because yes, over the past four years, we’ve all suffered those cruel, agonizing pangs of loss. For a time that’s widely romanticized as “the best four years of our lives,” it never really seems to be a cakewalk. We messed up. We slept through a few exams — and failed others. We had too much or did too little. We had our hearts broken. We sacrificed the gym for a Fat Chicken.
But we weren’t alone.
It’s easy to be a friend to someone who’s at his or her best and far more difficult to be one for someone who isn’t. In truth, that’s when that someone needs you most — and that companionship is what our little families at Lehigh have given us.
The impending absence of that perpetual camaraderie is arguably the greatest loss we’ll feel when we graduate. We won’t live within walking distance of each of our friends, we won’t have the same extent of social spontaneity and our phones won’t blow up with GroupMe messages every other hour.
But that doesn’t have to mean we’ll lose those bonds — and it certainly doesn’t mean the best years of our lives are over.
We can certainly choose to look back on our time at Lehigh through melancholy lenses. “Should haves,” “Shouldn’t haves” and “Wish I’ds” seem to freckle every conversation come graduation season. But as we teeter on the edge of uncertainty, we should also remember the successes, the happiness and — above all — the people we’ve found here.
We shouldn’t cling to what’s behind us, but we must also keep in mind that it shaped us into who we are, for we are all a sum of our own experiences. Regardless of whether we’re graduating, graduated or still have a few years until we cross that stage, we owe it to ourselves to reflect, learn and just keep swimming forward.