There are stories we tell ourselves on repeat, stories of our pasts we know by heart. I know the story of how I chose BC; I’ve told it a lot, usually in the same kind of way, like a speech I’ve prepared and practiced so often I can riff on it at will. I tell the stories of how I chose my major, how I joined Frisbee, each of my Appalachia trips, my semester abroad, my time on the Rock. I’ve packaged my experiences into miniature stories, with the same plot twists every time.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s necessary. When a stranger asks me to tell them about my four months in Spain, they don’t really want the details of how I met my best friends in the airport on day one. When a potential employer asks about my major, I won’t dig into how the conversations I’ve had with professors and peers in the classroom are second only to the conversations we’ve all shared over dinner and drinks. When my family asks about my Appalachia trips, I have a hard time explaining that songs like “Orange Sky,” “The Freshman,” and “Rivers and Roads” will never sound the same to me again.
Those are the details of bigger stories. Those are the details that aren’t part of the speech I’ve prepared. But those details have made my story bigger than me. Those are the details I’m afraid to not talk about, because the line between silent and forgotten is thin.
I’m graduating. That’s easy to say. I’m leaving Boston College. That one is harder, because I don’t want going away to mean forgetting. I want to remember more than what I tell myself, and others, on repeat. Once I graduate, I want to set the world on fire day after day with the love I’ve learned to feel here.
I don’t want to answer the question, “How did you like Boston College?” or “What did you study?” or “What were you involved in?” or “What are you doing after graduation?” Look at my resume. Check my Facebook profile. Google it. Those questions have answers that have already become stories, already a degree distant from me. They are no less real and genuine for that distance, but they lack space for details, and so they are incomplete
Ask me about the details. Ask me what foods I ate at 2am (quesadillas in Ignacio and mozz sticks in Lower). Ask me what song will, ten years from now, still make me think of my four years here (“Mr. Brightside” by the Killers). Ask me what my favorite spot on campus was (the labyrinth, behind Bapst Library). Ask me about the people that mattered most to me (there are roughly 12 girls I call “roommates”). Ask me about conversations I remember (walks around the Res, class discussions about God’s grace, candlelit rooms across Appalachia). Ask me when I felt most at peace (10:15 mass in Lower) and when I felt most at home (watching dumb movies with my best friends). Maybe don’t ask too much about Marathon Monday or the Mods, and don’t ask about my thesis unless you’re ready to focus and have a good half hour on your hands.
Most importantly: after I answer, ask me why. Details are one thing. Meaning is another.
Boston College is not perfect. I’ve cried here. I’ve been really angry, and I’ve gotten bad grades, and I’ve had too many extracurriculars and not enough sleep. I’ve gone to parties that left me feeling alone in a way-too-crowded room. I have hated, hated, winter. I’ve fallen in and out of love with boys, with books, with friends and with situations. I’ve stayed in on Friday nights and felt really lonely. I’ve met people who are inauthentic, or imbalanced, or who make me feel small. I’ve felt like I’m not rich enough, well dressed enough, cool enough (for what, who knows). I’ve taken on too much responsibility and doubted my ability to carry it all. Maybe I’ve never really let myself off the hook for being flawed.
But right now, as I type, I’m sitting on the grass outside Robsham Theater. Across from me, a friend is studying in a hammock between two trees. A group of guys and girls are playing duck-duck-goose. I’m bumping the new Justin Timberlake track in my headphones (it’s a jam, guys). I’m barefoot, with sunglasses on, and everything smells like flowers and mowed grass and springtime, and I can see the tip-top of Gasson from here. It’s a normal, typical, forgettable place to be. This moment is a detail. And somehow, being right here makes me feel complete. I am more completely myself for having been here for these four years.
I have found meaning all over this campus, and I don’t know how to say thank you for all of it. I’m not sure anyone can teach me how to say goodbye. So I’ll keep it simple: thank you to the Rock for making me feel like my voice matters. And goodbye to my loud, opinionated, loyal, beautiful staff—not really goodbye, though, because I’ll be reading. You’re in good hands with Saidhbhe, Jack, and Joey. You are a big part of my bigger story. The details of you all will always be meaningful to me.
Thanks, Boston College. For all of it. It’s time to get on with my story.
Photos Courtesy of Author