A College Commentary: The g-word

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Annie Henry

As the year winds down, students are cramming for finals, preparing for summer internships or vacations, while seniors get ready for grad… nope not now.

Saying the g-word is almost taboo to many seniors. We don’t want to admit that our college years of frivolous adventures are coming to a close.

As I sit here in Coppee Hall at 4 a.m. writing my final column to publish in The Brown and White, I begin typing, searching for the perfect phrases and inspirations — the last words under my byline in this publication.

If you were to tell me four years ago what I would be doing at this exact moment, I would have never believed you.

I went through my education like many of you — kindergarten, the fun-filled days of elementary school, the awkward middle school stage where we await high school, when you can become highest on the totem pole.

For me, college was just a natural next step — especially after 12 years of education.

Gradu… not quite yet.

It’s easy to suppress your emotions and uncertainty about the future, but as the end of this final school year inevitably comes closer and closer, the “lasts” begin.

Last formal. Last presentation. Last all-nighter in the library.

Last time hanging out on the front porch, enjoying a sunny day with your housemates. Last time your group of friends have a “family dinner.” Last party in an overheated, overcrowded living room, surrounded by everyone you know and love.

Change — it’s the only constant.

The only difference is, up until this point, the changes we’ve all endured were almost laid out as a part of a plan. Like a linear timeline where all we have to do is get from one point to the next.

But sometimes I forget the plan was more complicated than that. While I’ve experienced the highest of highs, I also experienced times when I would think I hit rock bottom and somehow feel even lower than that. So, the plan wasn’t as straight of a line as it seemed.

Transfers, breakups and changing majors were never written in my blueprint that laid out how college was supposed to go. My line twisted and dipped and sometimes even backtracked.

Like everyone, I had some curve balls and hardships throughout college. They happened, I adapted and I am forever thankful for how things worked out — and I bet you are too.

The g-word can be thought of in the same way. With just a few days before it all ends, we all have a choice. We can pretend it’s not happening — when it inevitably is — or we can embrace every moment, reflect on our experiences and realize why this, too, was a key step in our plan.

The class of 2018 has done a lot since we’ve arrived on Lehigh’s campus as wide-eyed, overeager freshmen.

We’ve gotten involved, gained professional experiences and found support systems.

We’ve survived living in a shoe box-sized dorm and managed the responsibility that comes with the freedom of independently making decisions.

We’ve navigated academics, the college social scene, hookup culture and honestly, we’ve probably done some things that our 10-year-old selves wouldn’t be proud of.

But we’ve learned. Some decisions made us think, others made us reevaluate. Each of these decisions taught us something, unknowingly preparing us for what comes next.

When we proceed into the g-word ceremony, it will be the first time since convocation freshman year that the entire class is together in one place again.

But this time, the people sitting in rows, awaiting their name to be announced are not the same people that sat eagerly at the welcome ceremony four years ago. No, we are not the same people.

Everyone — our friends, our classmates and ourselves — will leave college different people because of who we have met and what we have experienced.

So here’s the truth: the past four years of our lives are ending. But the next stage is just beginning.

Yes, there’s a world beyond college, and it’s a big one. It’s a world where our best friends are not just a walk next door. We will no longer be able to simply keep in touch with people through casual run-ins between classes and activities.

It’s a world where each bar won’t be filled with 80 people we know by name and pizza won’t always be free.

But it’s also a world that we can all handle — and maybe even enjoy.

So appreciate college at this moment, even the seemingly bittersweet end because whether you like it or not it’s happening.

Change is hard. We don’t like it, but we can’t stop it from coming. We can either choose to experience it in fear, fighting against moving forward, or we can breathe it in, making the most of it while stepping into the unknown future with tenacity.

College. “The best four years of your life.”

That’s what everybody says.

Best four years of your life, up until this point. Don’t let the memories of college be the only thing that brings you happiness.

College is not your forever, it’s your right now. So step forward confidently and continue to grow, because all of this will soon just be memories and there is so much more life to live after the g-word: graduation.

Annie Henry, ’18, is a community engagement manager and columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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2 Comments

  1. Robert Davenport on

    It’s been a faster four years for the class of 1968 that welcomed you to Lehigh and will send you off to the “real world” with wishes that you make the world a better place.

  2. Nancy Adler on

    I will miss reading your insightful articles. Your writing style is enjoyable and your honesty is admirable. I don’t know you personally (I am a parent of a current student) but from your writing you strike me as a formidable women who will move forward into this next adventure with strength, positivity and perception. Very best wishes to you.

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