Certain things don’t change, like the overabundance of egg salad sandwiches in train station snack bars, or the perfume counter snark catapulted at bewildered husbands every Mother’s Day weekend.
But most things do change, particularly over the course of a college career, which I suppose is why I was asked to write a Senior Retrospective.
If I was the same man I was when I came into Vassar four years ago, I’d hardly be the poster child of a successful graduation ceremony. Thankfully, for better or worse, I am a very different person than the freshman who first graced that ludicrously small Jewett double in August, 2010.
If nothing else, I feel it is important to say that I am smarter now than I was four years ago. Despite my many and varied developments to occur since coming to Vassar, some of which are likely of no interest to you and some of which are likely too subtle or insignificant for me to notice, I tend to gravitate first and foremost to what I consider the purpose of college: to make me smarter.
And I am smarter, thanks to the effort and support of the largely phenomenal professors and advisors I’ve had the privilege of meeting. More importantly, and also likely more useful in my day-to-day, is the fact that I am a stronger writer and speaker because of my studies at Vassar. These skills, which I once considered negligibly useful, now seem essential to my living a fulfilling life.
Beyond the classroom—which, let’s be honest, is where I spent a very small percentage of my time—it’s nearly impossible to take two steps without tripping over some pile of evidence speaking to my four-year evolution. My friends themselves are living testaments to my almost graduated selfhood, and if you tried to sum me up by the company I keep, you’d probably think I’m a much better, more accomplished, nicer person than I am.
I’ve been extraordinarily lucky during my time at Vassar to learn what true friendship consists of, to learn what it means to be challenged and supported and cared for at the same time. As someone accustomed to time spent alone, sometimes walking outdoors, more often in front of the television, adjusting to an environment as accepting as Vassar has been as rewarding as it was initially shocking.
Because of their support, Vassar has become not just a home, but a landmark of significant events that my future children will grow tired of hearing about. Vassar is where I came out as bisexual, which (in keeping with the stereotype) felt exactly half as climactic as a traditional gay man’s outing, but was pretty damn important to me nonetheless.
Vassar is where I learned that what I had once considered good enough, both in terms of politics and my general treatment of others, was not even close. Vassar made me work, and I can safely say I’ve worked harder these past four years than I ever expected, and that I am much better for it, even if I still have a long way to go.
Vassar has been my home when I’ve dealt with bouts of crushing depression, more than one nervous breakdown, and an extremely difficult and painful surgery and recovery process.
Vassar is where I’ve fallen in love, and there’s not enough room left in this retrospective to discuss the impact that has made upon my life. Vassar is where I first tried my hand at both stand-up comedy and fiction writing, which have served as desperately-needed artistic vents in troubled times, and likely will lead me (stupidly or not) toward a lifelong profession. Vassar is the school that let me write a novel for a thesis, a notion that four years ago I would not have only denied ever wanting to try, but also may have even belittled those who would.
Most of the exciting things in my life worth mentioning, and most of the important things whose “first times” get recounted, happened while I was at Vassar, or because of Vassar, or because of what Vassar has done to me.
Trying to find a way to wrap up this retrospective is a little like trying to wrap up a college a career: sentimental, terrifying, and all-around fucking awful.
I have a lot of things left to say and not a lot of time (or words) left to say them in. Vassar has in no way been an all-around positive experience for me (and I will always, in my heart of hearts, despise Deece food and its reliance on bell peppers and uncooked onions as filler for underseasoned and overcooked meats and corn starch pastes, the rudeness of registrar employees, and the fact that our gorgeous library won’t stay open past midnight), but I have not once ever regretted coming here, and I have not once felt curious about transferring out, or graduating early, or even living off-campus.
I do not feel unprepared for the world because of Vassar; I feel unprepared for the world because I am a man-child who still quotes Darkwing Duck.
Vassar has prepared me for life in so many more ways than I imagined since arriving four years ago, and in opening my eyes in that sense, I am very grateful, and incredibly privileged.
And if Vassar has taught me anything, it’s how to use the word “privilege.”
—Jean-Luc Bouchard is an English major with Music and Asian Studies correlates, as well as the former Humor & Satire Editor of The Miscellany News.