“Alison! Are you ready?” my dad yelled up the stairs on that sunny, hot, late August morning 4 years ago.
“Coming!” I responded, as I scanned my room one last time, making sure I had everything I would need for my dorm.
I fondly looked at my fluffy white bed that sat in the middle of my room, taking one last glance at the room that had been mine since longer than I could remember. Quietly shutting the door, my sadness was quickly replaced with hectic energy as I hurried down the stairs to hop in the car for that very first trip to Ann Arbor as a student of the University of Michigan.
Caitlin, Terri and Gary all helped me lug my belongings that I had so carefully chosen for this very day to the fourth floor of Wenley hall in West Quad – Gary saving the heaviest things for his most athletic and strong daughter Caitlin to carry of course. After a few hours of arranging and rearranging, becoming drenched in sweat, and a lunch break in between, my side of the dorm was ready and my roommate was no where to be seen. Terri and Gary were ready to go and they each gave me big hugs before departing. I distinctly remember sitting at my desk that so craftily fit under my lofted bed, trying to hold back tears and thinking now what?
Looking back on that day makes me sad for how quickly college has passed and proud for all I have accomplished – whether it be passing a difficult class, traveling to different countries, learning how to have a successful interview, or developing more confidence in myself and exploring interests and opportunities that I never considered before going to college.
Ann Arbor is the place that has slowly become my home throughout the past four years I have spent there. But more importantly than my dorm in West Quad, my basement apartments on Packard, or my house with the porch swing on Mary Court, are the people that have filled these spaces, as well as the spaces of my classrooms, the International Center, and even the bar. Through my education at U of M, I have met so many unique individuals and hopefully forever friends. That’s what makes leaving so much harder. And the goodbyes have been dragged out. Ever since graduation I have been saying bye to acquaintances, neighbors, and friends since freshman year, wondering the next time I will see them again.
It feels like everything is coming to an end. And it’s scary to think about what is next. Now what? I think to myself again just like I did that very first day of college. But this time it’s different. There isn’t this place that you are going to go and be surrounded by so many intelligent people, who have so many different interests, and are all about your age.
But, I think focusing on the new beginning that will come from this ending is the only way to get away from the sadness that follows graduation. In Marina Keegan’s essays and stories in the book “The Opposite of Loneliness”, she talks about the possibilities that lie before her fellow recent graduates at Yale. She writes, “What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating from college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have,” (3).Having an education from U of M has provided me with so many special opportunities and has exposed me to many unique ideas and opinions. And it has helped me to have a mindset that is similar to Marina’s. While this time in our lives may be coming to an end, this experience we have had in college creates the possibility for an amazing new beginning.
Tonight, I got to sit on the porch of my Mary Court house, the porch that I wanted ever since my freshman year, with Katie and Kristin and Tara, before shoving the last of my belongings haphazardly in my car to drive back home. We talked about some of the random but most favorite things we have done together, like laying in the hammock one day after class in our front yard and staying there until dark, ignoring our homework and enjoying some wine and the recently warm weather. Or our various roommate situations the past four years and the challenges associated with them. Or the Thursdays spent at Rick’s and that one time we were so hungover that… well there are too many of those.
Before leaving, I gave my room one last glance, to make sure nothing was left in any of the drawers or the closest. After ensuring that not even a sock was hiding under the bed, I fondly looked at it one more time, before sadly shutting the door behind me. I hurried down the stairs where Katie was waiting, and gave her one last hug goodbye.