Senior Retrospective: Bringing Vassar with you wherever you go

In front of me, I can’t make out anything concrete, but I can recognize the expanse of time that stretches out seemingly infinitely. Behind me is a lot clearer, faces familiar, the moments memorable, and the connections I have made remind me of how I got here. A whole life devoted to learning would in theory prepare me for such a situation, but I stand on the edge of something unknown and frightening in a way that I never have seen before. I have no idea how to say goodbye to a place that has given me so much. But if Vassar has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what trying something new will bring until it’s staring you in the face, asking you to somehow bid it farewell.

Reflecting on this space conjures in my head the images of all my favorite spots. My experience of our campus, like my journey throughout college, grew more complex and connected as time wore on. Anxiously, overwhelmingly arriving at Main Circle to crowds of enthusiastic Stu Fels feels a lot blurrier, especially compared to memories of mornings passed lounging on the quad, nights in the philosophy lounge and everything in between. Some spaces came and went, etches in time. Nothing captures the contained chaos of sophomore year like the Math Lounge, or the stress and determination of finishing my thesis in the Library. And some remained stalwarts of college, whether it be the Deece, the Shakespeare Garden or the Miscellany News office.

Those memories feel close, but ahead of me I still await what is to come. I hear car honks, the unintelligible conversations of people I can never claim to meet. However, what brings me great comfort is knowing that the relationships I have made here will continue to be with me, each of us still carrying a piece of the place where they formed. People often wonder what it means to be a Vassar student, and of course there is no one definition—that’s the whole point. And yet, at this place I’ve found perhaps the most genuine group of people I will ever have the privilege of knowing. People care about what they do, earnestly dedicating their time to those things and people that they love.

Regardless of whether I feel ready or not, I know the next stage of life is coming, inevitably, unavoidably scary but not untraversable. When I came to Vassar, I thought I knew a lot, and I spent the next four years coming to learn about all of the things I never knew existed. It may have been a life devoted to learning, but it wasn’t until college that I understood the potential of what learning could bring. In typical high-school fashion, I went from class to class filling my head with seven different subjects’ worth of information, entirely bereft of time to think about myself. I guess then you could say attending Vassar was the most selfish decision I’ve ever made.

Here, I learned how to exist within a community that cares for one another and about where they are going, how they impact the world. I learned how to be…me. It’s hard to put a price on realizing the joys of being truly free within yourself, or of understanding that you make your, and other peoples’, worlds better by feeling uninhibited to leave your mark. At Vassar, I came to embrace the seemingly simplest things, but to know what you love most in this life is a special thing. I won’t act like enjoying conversations with friends, sitting outside, going on long walks or listening to music makes me someone privileged with some grand realization of what life is all about. But they’re things that mean a lot to me and have provided me with experiences and memories I will keep with me long after I have left Vassar, ones that have taught me invaluable lessons in how to make each and every place I go somewhere I can say I feel comfortable in.

Vassar showed me the potential within a world I didn’t know existed four years ago—one in which apprehension can give way to hope and where a pursuit of happiness can go unimpeded by the fear of losing myself in it all. As I relistened to playlists of songs during my time here, attempting to inspire my reflection and write my goodbye to somewhere that has given me so much, I came to accept that not everything can be explained by words, or expressed in any communicable way. Everything I am grateful to have learned isn’t in here, and the things I will take away either, those are largely still yet to be entirely deciphered.  

And so, as the future comes clearer into view, commencing a journey that is decidedly not one where I may lounge for hours in the sun or grab a meal with my friends whenever I want, I can at least know I will be ready for it. Even if I swap tree-lined paths here for skyscraper-saddled ones elsewhere, all of the lessons I have taken ensure that wherever I go, I can carve out a bit of Vassar within it, or as I’d call it, a little slice of home.

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