I’m not sure what to write. At the end of Commencement 2013, a friend and I joked that by the time we were seniors, we would write a senior retrospective. But here I am, writer’s block producing two unfinished drafts of what I could send. But those beginnings do not feel honest. My room is a mess, to put it gently. There are clothes waiting to be washed, clothes waiting to be packed, and two garbage bags—one for stuff to give away, another for stuff to throw away. I have a view of the TA quad, where once in a while someone will pass by on their way to some of the senior week festivities. There’s probably a little panic somewhere in the mix. For some people, these last four years were some of the highlights of our young lives. And for others, these last four years were marred with some tough situations. Whatever the reactions to graduation are, to leaving Vassar, they’re all okay. I am a little confused as to how I feel about leaving, which is probably why this is hard to write. It also takes me a while to settle on a feeling, since I weigh everything carefully (if you wanted to know, and you probably didn’t, I’m a Libra). Do I feel sad or overjoyed? Do I allow myself to be grateful for the amount of opportunities I’ve been given while here, for the doors that have opened the day I accepted that offer to attend Vassar? Or do I tally up the painful events that have happened either to me or to the people I love and care for while on this campus?
I don’t want to do either. To have the scales tip one way feels unfair. I don’t want to disregard one narrative because the other feels more…clean.
I want to be able to tie up my Vassar experience into a neat package with a shiny red bow on it. But the truth is that the last four years have been a roller coaster, and I am unsure if I actually regret getting on this ride or just regret not having prepared for it more. I don’t think I regret anything. I became closer friends with people who would’ve remained acquaintances had I not had the opportunity to organize with them through MEChA, to facilitate conversations on consent with them and be a CARES listener, to not see them walk in and out of the ALANA Center. Maybe this is what people mean when they talk about seeing the silver linings. Those friends introduced me to some wonderful faculty members and administrators that would become my mentors. I remember one of my professors showing up to my presentation a couple of weeks ago, and how seeing his face that looked like mine made me feel a bit more reassured that I wasn’t entirely alone in academic spaces. Maybe this is what people mean when we say representation matters. Through a network of empowerment, I became more confident in the things I believed in. I felt more comfortable asking for what I wanted and pushing back if I didn’t think things were fair. My mentor once sat me down as I explained to her a situation I was dealing with at the time, and we came up with the values I hold myself to. I’ve learned to harness a fire in me and use it to help others and myself. Some of those troubling events I briefly mentioned earlier did test me. I learned how to be kinder to myself. By being kinder to myself, I learned how to care for everyone else around me. And some days I still fuck up. Some days I am quick to anger and quick to protect myself and stay on guard. Some days I am weighed down by all of the fucked-up-ness that happens here, and the ways that we hurt each other. But somehow I found kind souls around me who encourage me every day to open up a little more, push myself to get over some fears, and to apologize whenever I hurt.
Maybe I will miss this place. I already know I will miss being in the Hudson Valley, riding my bike throughout Poughkeepsie, taking in the quiet nights. I will miss the ALANA Center, which has been a home away from home the last few years, and the students of color who remind me we’re not alone here. I will miss CARES, and I’ve already had dreams where I am in the midst of another training semester with the group. I’ll miss knocking on my professors’ doors, asking if they have a second to talk about something that was going on around campus or something that came up during class.
I think what I’ll miss most is the people I’ve come across, who’ve either remained acquaintances, who have my closest friends here, or who I don’t really talk to anymore. I do know what I won’t miss though. I won’t miss the violence, in its many variations, that happens here. I won’t miss the times people have accused me of not belonging here, based primarily on my ethnicity or my class. I won’t miss that weird smell behind the College Center. My housemates’ muffled laughs travel upstairs and they seem to go along well with the music blasting from my laptop. There’s still so much to pack, but I don’t feel like I should be in a rush. More often than not it feels like I’ll still be here next year, but I know I won’t. Maybe it is too much to focus on the beginning and on the end of things. I’m still unsure how I should feel. And maybe that’s okay, too.
— Susie Martinez is the outgoing CARES Intern, member of the MEChA de Vassar Organizing Team, and a former ALANA Center Program Intern.