the truth about homecoming.

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“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” -Pascal Mercier

The truth is, five short months after graduation will be homecoming. And if you had the kind of friends who “did college right,” they’ll do homecoming right too.

The truth is, hugging the roommate you haven’t seen since July will be the best thing you do all week. Letting them go will be the hardest thing you do all month.

The truth is, they’ll charge you $15 to get into the beer tent, but you’ll pay it anyway because you’re going in there come hell or high water.

The truth is, it will feel like an actual blow to the stomach when you see freshmen walking around with tshirts that say “Class of 2018.” YES, EIGHTEEN.

The truth is, you’ll always somehow belong to that school, but it doesn’t really belong to you anymore.

The truth is, you’ll never find a burger that tastes quite like the one they make at your favorite place on the meal plan. Thankfully, it’ll taste just like it did in May.

The truth is, you’ll kind of miss Maroon and Gold.

The truth is, it’ll be really weird when you drive by your old apartment and wonder what it looks like inside now. It’ll be weirder to realize that it doesn’t really matter what it looks like-it’s not yours anymore.

The truth is, that bar up the street is still overpriced, but somehow worth every penny when it’s filled with the right people.

The truth is you can’t drink as much as you used to, but that’s probably not going to stop you.

The truth is, one weekend is not enough time to catch up with people you used to see every day. Somehow, getting that five minutes to say hello and share a hug is happy and kind of hurts at the same time.

The truth is, eating brunch with your roommates the next morning will feel exactly like it used to, even if it’s a different diner. But getting in separate cars to go separate ways at the end of the meal will feel stranger than you can imagine.

The truth is, you won’t realize how much you miss those crazy kids until you have to leave them again. It will somehow be harder than you expected to go back to reality after a taste of what once was.

The truth is, no one told you how much it sucks not to see your best friends every day. They probably couldn’t have warned you if they tried.

The truth is, you won’t know how very much that campus was home until it’s not anymore.

The truth is, it’ll be exactly what you needed.

saying goodbye: seeing through the rearview mirror

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“It’s the emptiest and yet the fullest of all human messages: ‘Good-bye.” – Kurt Vonnegut

The last month and a half has been one of the busiest, most unpredictable times in my life. In the past few weeks I’ve seen many endings, and beginnings.

I graduated from college. I went to senior formal with my best friends and I said goodbye to the place I’ve called home for four years. I spent one last week in our apartment giving tearful hugs to friends I don’t know when I’ll see again, finding closure, having a few last family meals and getting completely pulverized in slapcup. I ended my career as a student and looked towards what would follow.

I moved home to welcome post-grad life, I reconnected with my friends and family and I started the job search. I teared up with pride as I watched my little sister graduate from high school at the top of her class, knowing that she has an amazing four years ahead of her.

And then- a few days ago, I lost my grandmother.

It wasn’t unexpected; my family had been preparing for the news for a couple of weeks. My grandma turned 90 two days before she passed, with a group of us singing “Happy Birthday” around her bed on the hospice floor. The news came late one night, and we weren’t surprised; my family had reached another ending together, said another goodbye.

And then the stories were told, details of my grandmother’s life I wish I had thought to delve into sooner. I can’t help but think I should have asked her more about her time in the Navy and her work in D.C.. I should have talked to her about how she met my grandfather, the one I never got to meet (but that my dad assures me would have “liked my spunk”). I should have asked her what college was like when she went, and for more stories about what dad was like when he was little.

Realizations came in waves that grandma’s story is, of course, an important part of mine. That her story is something I should take pride in, and I can only do that if I know what it is.

It’s so easy to see the older people in our lives as stable constants. We’re so focused on our own stories, on the ones we carefully edit via filters and captions on Facebook and Instagram, that we forget to ask about the stories that came before us. We neglect the photos that look old because they ARE old for the ones that look old because we carefully layered ‘Walden’ over ‘1977’ and upped the contrast.

We only learn about grandma’s service in the FBI after she’s gone, and then it’s harder to picture her in her 20’s: serving her country in the war, going to college and falling in love. Meeting grandpa and moving to what became home. My home.

All the endings I’ve witnessed recently have made me pause to reflect on where I’ve been, and where I’m going.

I’m keeping the camera around to take pictures of the stories I’m still writing, and still living- because someday, maybe someone will want to hear them. But I’m putting the camera down long enough to pick up the photo albums that will show me the sides of my family, and myself, that I never knew. I want to ask about the stories that those pictures bring back before there’s no one left who can tell them.

Sometimes when we’re saying goodbye to what’s familiar and don’t know where the road is headed, it helps to glance in the rearview mirror and remember where we’ve come from.

why college was ‘worth it’

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“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”  -Tom Bodett

 

Welp, here we go. It is officially, definitively, one month to graduation.

The school has given us our caps and gowns, the yearbook has been poured over, and we have all given up on caring about our grade in that one senior elective we only took to fulfill credit requirements.

The job hunt looms ahead: an intimidating mess of resumes, cover letters, and awkward moments during interviews. We know we have no choice but to look ahead into that dark cloud of uncertainty, and all we really want to do is turn around and relive the familiar, worry-free moments we didn’t realize we should have appreciated more.

In the face of post-grad life, there’s talk about the value of a college education. Having that degree will, hopefully, help you get some job or another. But, there’s still those who ask- was it worth it?

Was it worth the money? That unbelievable price tag that you justified you could pay off between scholarships, grants, loans, side jobs, and (for us lucky ones) the generosity of your parents?

Was it worth the time? Those endless hours in pre-reqs and core classes, the late nights writing 20+ page papers on Shakespeare and studying for that cumulative psych final?

Was it worth the stress, the anxiety? Was it worth the frustration? And, in the end, are you any better off?

I can’t (and won’t try to) speak for my fellow soon-to-be graduates. But for me, the answer is: absolutely.

Why?

College connected me with people who have drastically, and beautifully, changed my life.

The classes were important, but the professors were exponentially moreso- the English professor that was so excited about what we read that he made me WANT to go to class, the Humanities professors that made me change the way I see the world and defend my opinions with conviction, and the art teacher that convinced me we’re all artists, somehow.

The professional experience was valuable, but my mentors made all the difference. The advisers that showed me what real support in the workplace does (and doesn’t) look like, the older students that inspired me and made me want to be better every single day, and the co-workers that continually surprised me with their passion and their dedication.

The late nights out and college parties were fun, but they would have been nothing without the friends I made in the process. The roommates that have stood by me since move-in day, the friends that have no problem with a 3 a.m. emotional phone call, and the alumni that still keep in touch and offer advice via a group text message that involves too many emojis.

These people, all of them, saw me in my best and worst moments. My professors at my academic highs and lows. My advisers and coworkers through my successes and failures. My friends through the highs of loves and lows of breakups, through happiness and hangovers.

They have had an impact on my life that, years after our tassels have been turned, will not be any less important in shaping who I am than it is today. They gave me a real education.

If someone asks me if I’ll be better off financially than I would have been with a different past four years, the honest answer is I don’t know, and maybe I never will. But worth isn’t always measured in numbers and statistics, and the experience of meeting these amazing people and sharing a love of learning and life with them has been the most worthwhile thing I’ve done thus far.

So don’t worry, college. When they ask if you were worth it, I’ll tell them you were.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have you on my resume.

dear mary: an open letter to my college-bound little sister

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Dear Marybear,

There are a few reasons being four years apart in age hasn’t always been fun- we never got to be in high school together and sometimes we’ve been on completely different pages. But now you get to (hopefully) benefit from the fact that we’re both graduating this year- besides the money we’ll save by combining all of our Class of 2014 paraphernalia.

Not that you need my advice, but maybe if you remember a few of the things I learned in college, going away in the fall will be a little easier. Here it goes.

I know people almost always make you roll your eyes, but give them a chance, Mar. You’re about to meet some of the best friends you will ever have. You’re also about to encounter some of the dumbest people you’ve ever met, but I know you’ll have a golden response to everything they throw at you.

I know new things are scary, but find the thing you love and do it with all you have. Join something that makes you smile. You know the newspaper changed everything about my college experience, and I want you to find the thing that brings that much joy and pride into your life, too.

I know it’s hard to put your foot down, but be with the people that make you happy. Sometimes the friends you meet the first day stick with you, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes some of the most important people you know won’t surface until junior and senior year. But your time is too short to spend it with people who make you feel any kind of bad about yourself.

I know you hate getting out of bed, but go to class as much as you can. You’re like me, I think, in that it hurts your pride a little too much to do poorly. You’re the smartest person I know, but trust me when I say going to class will make your life a lot easier.

I know that boys are fun and so are boyfriends, but be careful with your heart, cutie. I can tell you with conviction that it’s better to have loved and lost, but the losing can be hard. You’re too young to be anything but happy in your relationships. Just remember you deserve the best, and accept nothing less.

I know that alcohol is fun too, but trust me on this- if you think you’ve had enough, you have. Don’t let anyone else convince you to do anything you don’t want to. Real friends want you to have fun and be safe, and you have to be able to trust each other. Take lots of pictures, but don’t put them all on Facebook. And remind me to teach you about privacy settings.

There are going to be times you make mistakes and miss home and want to cry but feel awkward about it because there’s really nowhere to be alone in your dorm. You’ll want to quit because you have too much homework and a hangover and you miss the cat and mom and dad. But there are also going to be times you try new things and meet new people and get really excited about the opportunities ahead of you. You’ll want to take on the challenges and go to the parties and wish that college could continue just a little (or a lot) longer.

Most of all, remember that you’re smart, you’re beautiful, and you are unimaginably loved. Remember that I am always only a phone call away- and that whatever “it” is,  I’ve been there and done that, and you are never alone. I’m so proud of you, Mary.

Good luck. Have fun. Be safe.

all the love I have,

your big sister. xoxo

here’s to 100 nights

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“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” -Bill Watterson

You know you’re nearing the end of college when most of your friends are drinking out of bottles instead of cans and Tyler (who once taught you the basics of beer pong) passes on a free drink because he has to go to work in the morning.

Senior Thesis Day is less than a week away, your landlord notifies you that she’ll be showing the apartment tomorrow and the toast of the night is “here’s to 100 nights until graduation.”

The conversation has changed over the years, from figuring out which core classes to take together to cleaning up Twitter accounts and applying to jobs. Sometimes it seems like you all met yesterday and sometimes it feels like you’ve known each other since 4th grade. Time is weird like that.

In the midst of side conversations about internships and grad schools, Krista wins the poker game, because she has no clue how to play and you’ve come to expect that kind of thing. You sit back and look around at the people you’ve grown with, grown apart from, and grown closer to on any given weekend.

You think about all that’s happened since these people first came into your life. Jackie deals the last hand and you remember meeting her the first day you moved in, praying you two would be friends and taking the fact that you both used Herbal Essences as some kind of sign. You wonder how different your life would have been if you hadn’t been roommates, and you’re grateful it’s not.

You realize that even though you’ve all had your ups and downs, the people around the table have come to resemble some kind of eclectic family that will always come to mind when, years from now, you think about college. You know you’d be someone else if these people hadn’t come into your life, and you wonder if you would have liked that other you. You decide you probably wouldn’t.

You think about the seniors you met when you were a freshman, and you wonder how they seemed like they were so much older than you are now, and how you thought they must have it all figured out. Now you have to laugh to yourself because although you know a lot more than you did at 18, you know that 21 is not the year you figure it all out.

More than anything else, you think about how you only have 100 nights to do things like sit around and play poker with your friends until 2 a.m., and how you’d better take advantage of every one because the “real world” is coming, and it’s nothing like MTV.

Here’s to every night til graduation, and to making it count.

Suck it up, Millennials: Embrace your twenty-something-ness

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“15 ways you know you’re a suffering twenty-something”

“7 daily awful things every twenty-something can relate to”

“20 reasons a twenty-something wouldn’t survive the Hunger Games”

All I see on social media lately are reasons why life in your twenties is hard. Our generation is taking to the Internet to express through lists and gif sets why they are miserable, tired and worthy of pity. No career, some college debt, unlucky in love, unsure of oneself. Thought Catalog and BuzzFeed have us all convinced that between post-graduation and pre-30s, life is a mess of hopeless wine guzzling and Ramen noodles.

Suck it up, millennials.

You’re scared? So is everyone else. Every single one of us is worried we’re never going to get a job we actually like.

You don’t have a career yet? DUH. Careers take years of hard work. You might be 40 before you find your true calling. And that’s fine. But your dream job is not going to knock on your door in the middle of your Parks and Recreation binge-watch on Netflix.

College debt? Join the club, we have t-shirts. Unlucky in love? Just remember there’s a dating site for those aged 50+ so you’re probably doing fine.

Unsure of yourself? GOOD. Continue to test yourself, push your limits, surprise everyone, and find out what you’re truly capable of.

Stop complaining about how hard life is for 20-somethings today.

Because even though we’re all still figuring it out, we have a few things going for us: we’re not alone, we’re still young enough to bounce back from failure, and our lives are still full of possibilities.

We don’t know what our lives will be like a year from now. And yeah, that’s terrifying. But it’s also the most freeing and wonderful feeling in the world.

Yes, you have to work hard. Yes, you might have to live in a shitty apartment and have a job right after college that isn’t what you hoped for. And yes, there will probably be days  that are a mess of hopeless wine guzzling and Ramen noodles.

But, for the love of God, you’re a 20-something. There is so much of your life to be lived, and there’s no telling where it might take you. Stop obsessing over insecurities and uncertainties every one of us is facing and enjoy the ride.

(Hopefully I can take my own advice.)

525,600 minutes later

IMG_1328“525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year?”

The end of 2013 is quickly approaching, and just like any other year (however arbitrary that measure of time is) you start to think about how much is different, and how much is the same. Thinking about what’s happened in the past 12 months is enough to make anyone’s head spin. 

2013 was the year I cruelly and selfishly broke someone else to heal myself, and ran from the guilt. It was the year I hugged some of my best friends goodbye on the morning of their graduation and then cried like a baby as soon as they left their apartment.

It was the year I found happiness in London and spent the 4th of July playing foozeball in a pub with the owners after-hours while Rebecca poured her own beer and Victoria flirted with the bartender. It was the year I turned 21, fell unexpectedly but not reluctantly in love, and discovered a passion for pastels.

It was an entire year without Chris and Mr. G, but a whole year with William and Chase.

So, okay, Rent: how do you measure a year? Is there an equation to determine how much you lost, how much you gained? Is there a way to tell how much you’ve changed? Because I know I am not the same person I was last December- and I don’t regret it in the slightest.

Self assessment: since last year, I’m happier but more scared about the future. I get less stressed about the little things but more stressed about what it all means. I’m better at giving myself credit but just as bad at opening bottles of wine.

Benjamin Franklin, that wise, bald man, said something along the lines of ‘when you’re finished changing, you’re finished.’ I couldn’t agree more, Benny. I guess it doesn’t really matter how much I’ve changed- that I’ve changed is enough. And I’m nowhere near ‘finished.’

Maybe I’ll remember 2013 as the year I was ecstatic that I got to be a bridesmaid at Taylor’s wedding, despite the pit in all of our stomachs that one Donato was conspicuously and painfully absent.

Maybe I’ll remember that The Ionian won Organization of the Year and we celebrated with custom-made shot glasses, a scrapbook, and a gin bucket at Meg’s.

Maybe I’ll think of moving into our senior year apartment the day after my 21st, hungover as only a new 21-year-old can be, my parents pointing at me and saying, “do you see what happens when you drink too much?” to my little sister.

I can’t tell you what will come to mind first when I look back on 2013 a few years from now. But I will remember that these 525,600 minutes have changed me- for, I think, the better. I hope I can say the same next December.

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Texts I Sent Last Night

The first semester of senior year is winding down and yet another of my friends is celebrating their 22nd birthday. Where else would I be but the college’s go-to bar? Surrounded by Christmas lights, people in Santa hats and a ton of ugly sweaters, here were some of the texts I sent out into the world last night:

 

“Cheers to that, dude.”

“The elf midget on the bar at beech is being generous with his shot pours. I miss you.”

“Don’t be worried Bridget it is with me and she is 100% good!”

“Rob is in a Santa suit.”

“You don’t need to fight him he seems like a nice midget.”

“I was going to attack you with love.”

Happy Holidays.

What I’m Learning in College

It’s only Tuesday and I’ve learned a lot already this week. Here are some things I didn’t know college would teach me.

  • We are so much more and so much less than we know
  • “Experiencing the entire gambit of human emotions is exhausting” – one of the greatest professors/men I have ever met
  • There’s an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. They prefer silence, but there will never be silence. Life is for noise. 
  • All of poetry is a message in a bottle
  • If you can’t laugh, you have the wrong attitude
  • Perspective is a powerful thing

 

Happy Homecoming

Haven’t posted in a while, but there’s a reason for that- Homecoming weekend.

Oh, Homecoming. Students neglect all their obligations for about 48 hours, becoming much more reckless as alumni swarm the campus to reminisce about the days when they did the same. The school is decked out in maroon and gold, lax pinnies with “SENIORS” stamped across the front abound, and whispers of which off-campus houses will be throwing parties tear through the school like wildfire.

This year’s festivities featured some key moments- I wiped the tears off the face of my too-drunk friend at the bar, cheered with my roommates at the pep rally, spent all of Saturday sporting more school spirit gear than I do all year, and allowed my alumni friends to buy me a drink or two “because I’m employed now, thank you.”

Maybe it’s the rosy lenses of nostalgia creeping in a little early, but senior year homecoming finally felt right. I was reunited with some of my best friends, and I imagined what life will be like next year when I experience homecoming as a student-no-longer. As much as I complain about my work for class, I know that the scary and very real “real world” is the ever-approaching next step, and that weekends like this will soon become a thing of the past.

All the school spirit might be getting to me, but I am determined to make every moment left as a college student count. This weekend, as I sat at the local bar that will serve as the backdrop for many of my college-year memories with the friend two years my senior who had brought me there for the first time, I thought about how much had changed- and how much I felt at home.

Life’s going to get crazy soon- so I’m going to take as many hilarious candid shots with my roommates as I can, say “yes” to the opportunities that come my way, and make sure I don’t take these next few months for granted.

Sleep is for the weak. Besides, my bed will still be there when I’m an unemployed post-grad.

Happy Homecoming.

Some of the greatest ladies I know.

Homecoming brings out the dysfunction in all of us.