I am a racer. There is no closure in racing. There are always more races, faster times, better places, and more grit to be had, which can never be had. As long as you put your heart on the line of every race, it will leave you wondering why you didn’t have a bigger heart. So you tell yourself, next race. Next race, I will find more heart to give. I am out of races.
Two and a half weeks from the end of my senior track season, I developed a blood clot in my left leg. I was hospitalized for four days, the weekend before what should have been the biggest race of my career. A career that began at age seven. A few hours after I got out of the hospital, I was back crutching around the track, in the vain hope that I could get back onto the 4×400 team in three days. My doctor laughed when I asked to race. I just didn’t feel done. I still don’t.
Watching the team run without me that Wednesday was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I screamed at them until my voice cracked, even when they were much too far away to hear.
I am so proud to have trained and raced with such powerful people over the last four years here. There is a quiet strength about the team. The grit to giggle about snot four miles into an eight-mile marathon pace run, or three reps into a bleed run. The power to stand tall, pushing through injury after injury to get back onto the course or the track. The sheer faith in the joy of pushing yourself so far past your limit that standing is no longer possible and there is only running, running until you pass the finish line and collapse. That is the legacy of my team on my soul, and it is an immense gift. I am so jealous that they got a last race.
There were no goodbyes. My last class ended without comment. I was in the hospital, bathed in two different opiates, for my last violin concerts. The whole college experience feels distinctly unfinished. Yet, Vassar will fade into the background, as high school did, and before that, elementary school.
My hand remained outstretched until the end, looking for that next race. Eventually, next races stop coming. Ends tend to sneak up on me while I am out looking for the next great thing.
This must therefore be a moment to pause. To say goodbye to the professors who bent my mind into grotesque and gorgeous shapes; to the classmates who challenged me with the unexpected; to the man whose little dog walks him around campus; and finally to my coaches and my team: I cannot express the fullness of my love and admiration. Thank you for pushing me and teaching me and hugging me and listening to me and talking to me, and just for making this experience what it was. Whatever it was, it was beautiful in its wholeness and its roundness, its frustrations and its joys.
I have come to realize that even if I were able to race one last time, or play in one last concert, I still would not have closure because conversations and possibilities are always infinite. Once those conversations happen, they will always be and they will always have been. The thought on this campus shapes my future, and it shapes my relationship with the past. Thus, it is time to learn gratitude for all the incredible conversations I have witnessed and engaged.
We are in a moment of goodbyes. Of pretending we will see each other soon. The next time we meet, we will be different people, and that is as it should be.
Hug your friends today, and remind them that you love them and will always have loved them, even as you grow apart and change. Endings are as porous as the relationships they contain and I have not yet found my moment of closure. My hand is still outstretched, as indeed it should be.