On average, the college experience lasts four years. Five hundred and sixty days if you subtract weekends, holidays and seasonal breaks. Three hundred and ninety three days if you subtract days impacted by a global pandemic.
Needless to say, I have always found myself obsessed with the passing of time, hyper-fixated on time remaining, oftentimes at the expense of the present.
The excitement of birthdays, holidays and summer camp was always tainted by the impending end and an overwhelming pressure to fit too much into just not enough time.
When I first stepped on Lehigh’s campus, I knew it was for me. My early months at Lehigh were a whirlwind. The infamous adjustment period I had feared for so long just never seemed to hit me. Handed newfound independence and a never ending sea of social and academic opportunities, my first semester seemed to end before it even started. I walked away feeling happier than ever, yet petrified.
Just three months in and time was fleeting. Before I knew it, Lehigh would be in my rearview.
How would I have enough time to do everything I had hoped for? To figure out my place in the world? How would I make these four years, the best four years? With a few deep breaths, I would put myself at ease, “It’s OK,” I would tell myself, “you still have so much time.”
Circumstances changed but my love for Lehigh remained stagnant. Much like the first, the next few semesters came and went, that ticking time bomb getting louder and louder in the back of my mind.
Riddled with fear, I’d take solace in how much was in front of me. Sure, more than half of college was behind me, but the best was yet to come, right?
It took a long awaited trip abroad cut short and a global pandemic for me to face a reality I had seemingly been running from my entire life. Sometimes there is just not enough time and sometimes, there is too damn much.
The heartbreak of an emergency evacuation home from Spain was appeased by convincing myself that two weeks later, I would go back. Two weeks became two months and that naive hope for a return to Spain dwindled. Summer brought upon another onslaught of disappointments. Dream internships transitioned from Downtown Manhattan to my kitchen table. Hope to see any semblance of normalcy for senior year was shattered. Despite returning to campus, my classes were entirely virtual and my social interactions reduced to a few friends.
I have often found myself referring to this year as the collective mourning of what should have been.
In addition to the trauma of a global pandemic, this year required us to process the loss of a culminating college experience. But instead of looking back and processing with nostalgia, we lived through the unsatisfying end, watching each milestone and long awaited celebration come and go, time continuing to slip away before our eyes.
In this time, my greatest fear had come to light. Time was merely passing me by and there was nothing I could do to control it. The monotony of each day became increasingly taxing and drove me to a bitterness that deteriorated my mental health and my relationships.
I found myself stuck inside a narrative that I didn’t deserve to be upset about the loss of my senior year because so many people had lost so much more. I associated my pain with Lehigh and found myself wishing away the time I had once so desperately tried to hold on to.
The pain felt so foreign. Lehigh was my happy place, a place where bad days could always be made better by a walk through campus and time with a few great friends.
Why me, why my senior year? How was I to take on the world when I couldn’t even find joy where I once did with such ease?
Embracing a shameless love for musical theater, I began to refer to the culmination of my senior year as a “not so grand finale.”
Much like this year, a show without a grand finale might not leave you on your feet giving a standing ovation, but it will force you to think. If you’re lucky, it will make you realize what is most important, gravitas and fanfare pushed aside.
It was in this not so grand finale that I was faced with no choice but to sit down and reflect. After most things had fallen short, what still fulfilled me?
The immediate answer was, and continues to be, The Brown and White.
I was uplifted by the stories of community members who turned trial into triumph and was motivated by the relentless dedication of my peers who continued to show up despite the hurdles of remote publication.
The Brown and White became more than the work that I did, but a representation of making a choice to care about something larger than myself, when frankly, it felt easier not to.
In the not so grand finale, I covered presidential campaign trails, investigated injustices within the administration and strove to better represent the local community.
But more than that, I found joy where it seemed impossible, reignited the passion I thought I had lost and immersed myself in a community of dedicated, like-minded peers who saw a global crisis as a call to action. Instead of dwelling in the darkness of circumstance, it was my peers and advisors who motivated me to use my platform as a privilege, to share stories when they most desperately needed to be told.
The Brown and White is what saved me.
I have avoided writing this Edit Desk for weeks, knowing that it very well may be the last article I write in my time here. In about six hours I will enter The Brown and White newsroom for the final time.
Tomorrow I walk away, with no choice but to learn who I am without that safety net.
At twenty-one, I could seek solace in how much time stands in front of me. But instead, I choose to embrace the unknown and stand upon what I have built. If I have learned anything from this not so grand finale it is that the future is not guaranteed.
Throughout this year, my professor and advisor, Jeremy Littau often said that the one thing we can control right now is how we come out of this moment.
Because of The Brown and White, I will come out of this moment more resilient and empathetic when approaching hardships and challenges head on. Because of The Brown and White, I walk away with confidence and relationships that outweigh my fear of the unknown and yearning for more time here. Because of The Brown and White, the not so grand finale still proved to be pretty remarkable.
For the first time, the metaphorical curtain is closing and I am not begging for an encore.
Twenty days separate me and graduation. Before I know it, Lehigh will be in my rearview, but this time, I’m not so scared.