Ends and Beginnings

I wrote what I thought was the softest thing I would ever publish a few months ago, but I sincerely hope that this piece tops it.  Because emotions are cool, but mostly because I’m attempting to answer a question and would like any help I can get: How does one attempt to encapsulate an experience in a limited number of words? It is the question that provides a multitude of answers depending on who you ask: some professors choose to have “last lectures,” others provide speeches, while some send letters to those that have most impacted them.  We here at the Rock usually try to offer some tidbit of wisdom from our editors with their “sendoff piece,” an opportunity for us to put pen to paper one final time and leave our readership with something to think about long after commencement ends and our time at BC comes to close.

But what in the hell was I supposed to write about? This was a thought that was bouncing around in the back of my head since the last day of classes occurred a little over a month ago.  The one good thing about academics senior year is that if you’re not writing a thesis come second semester, school becomes a whole lot easier.  Professors seem to have this unspoken agreement that if you did not totally give up during the regular semester then you could be guaranteed to at least keep the grade that you were going into finals with.  So as academics slipped from the forefront of my concern, I set about trying to figure out how I was going to leave my lasting impression at Boston College.  I was going to ensure that I would be remembered for something regardless of how consequential or large it would be.  An internal countdown started inside of my head as I gave myself a little under three weeks to try and figure out how I was going to best have my moment.

But each time that I sat down to try and write what I was hoping was going to be my masterpiece, something would come up.  Maybe it was a call from back home as family members tried to organize the great trip that was flying from California to Boston.  It could have been a text/call from a friend or acquaintance that was trying to catch one last cup of coffee before the school year came to close and the opportunities to do so would become few and far in between.  Or maybe, as any alumni is sure to testify to, it was just time to start drinking and enjoy the bender that marked the rapidly approaching end of college.  It was for reasons like these and many others that I never got around to writing what would become my last article for the Rock.  And I think that a piece of me was scared to admit that this would be yet another last, another finale on my BC career.  Although there was an immense amount of joy to be had in losing myself in the company and excitement of the moment, there was always a twinge of sadness underlying each activity.  And I couldn’t bring myself to have the Rock become tainted with any type of melancholy.

I suppose that this feeling of happiness and sadness can be indicative of what senior year was as a whole to me.  Going into it last summer, there was a sense of unbridled excitement and happiness.  I felt as though I finally had achieved that elusive sense of bliss that people seem to always speak about: I felt comfortable in my relationships, I was living with some of my best friends, I was in charge of more clubs than I could keep track of, and BC had finally become the place that I felt most comfortable as well as the place that I hated leaving the most.  The family that I had longed for for so long was finally forming out of the friends that I had been able to make, one that I was able to shape.  This was going to be the year of sitting in Hillside for hours at a time, splitting time between homework and conversation with the friends that had been made over the years.  It was to be the time of going out four nights a week, being hungover but content, and finally walking into the mods with a sense of confidence that freshman Joey could only hope to one day achieve.  The Heights was to be the best place on earth for nine and a half months, and this was to be the opportunity to seize the most out of every single experience that presented itself.

Although a sense of optimism is healthy to have, perhaps I expected too much.  As I sought to make sure everything was perfect and living up to grandiose expectations that I kept in my head, reality was proving to be marching to a very different rhythm altogether.  Relationships that seemed to be so secure crumbled around me and I felt powerless to try and save them.  Extracurriculars that had at one time been so life affirming seemed hollow and devoid of meaning as I just went through the motions of what was expected of me.  It was a time of being cracked open and watching everything that I felt so secure in spilling out of me.  BC had provided so much for me over the past three years, so why was it now, when everything was supposed to be reaching its crescendo, that it felt as though things were unravelling.  And through it all, I felt as though there was something wrong within me that I needed to fix.  That if only one switch could be flipped everything would be fixed and I would finally get to have the year that I felt I deserved.

As time progressed, things did eventually become easier.  New friendships seemed to spring up as people sought to make as many connections as possible before graduation.  Meaning was found through different avenues, and the passions that had served me so well evolved to reflect my current interests.  The emotional turmoil diminished, going from being an almost constant reminder of what was wrong with me to something that was kept by my side, something to be wary of but also improve upon.  And I got a job teaching Spanish kids English, which I am actually so incredibly excited about if not a little bit terrified. 

It was that sense of terror and excitement that were the prevalent emotions as school wound down, and it was an interesting state to be in.  The terror stemmed from losing what was familiar, of leaving behind a place that I had finally grown comfortable in, of losing the ability to walk 20 feet in any direction on campus and bump into someone that I knew.  To leave behind the friends that I had grown to love and the relationships that helped to shape me into the person that I am today.  Also, holy balls, moving to Europe meant leaving behind everyone and everything.  What if I lost contact with people, what if I became friendless, what if… what if…what if…

But there was also the excitement that existed alongside the terror, living in mutuality with it.  Excitement for what lay in the unknown, a nervous energy to see friends preparing to embark upon the rest of their lives and so excited to see what they were going to accomplish.  Eagerness to start what would become the rest of our lives: to see what relationships would develop, where people would wind up in the world, and what stories we would be able to trade at our first reunion five years from now.

All these thoughts and more were swirling around in my head the day of graduation, which seemed to pass in a slightly drunken blur.  Sitting in the rain for 6 hours is something that I would not recommend anyone try (although I got to sit next to Jack), but it is worth it each and every time you hear the name of someone you care about echo through Alumni.  Pictures weren’t really all that feasible as people frantically scrambled to either get dry or get back to their dorms and try to clean up the aftermath of what was a week and a half of partying.  Luckily my family was there to help with the colossal amount of crap that I had collected, leaving me free to wander Iggy lightly sobbing as I encountered friends new and old.  The goodbyes ranged from carefree for those people that would be sticking around over the summer, to the intensive for those that I would not be seeing for a while.  Don’t even get me started on how incredibly heart wrenching it is to speak with someone that deep down you know you will probably never see again.  And come 8 o’clock that night it was all over; I pulled away from Iggy with one last car load of my stuff, blasting Closing Time in an effort to try and get all of the emotions out, too exhausted to make sense of what had just happened.  Because Boston College had officially ended for me, and I was now considered an alumnus.

As I sit and write this somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it is with a mixture of emotions still swirling around in my head.  It is a little under two weeks since the worst day of my young life, and I am not sure what to make of things.  It feels a bit like any other summer: living off campus with friends while working some type of inconsequential internship and trying to not blow through all of the money.  But things are different, things have ended.  There will be no returning to BC as an undergrad come the end of August, and for some the pressures of the real world will be starting soon enough.  Underclassmen friends will assume the roles that I once held, someone else will be trying to get comfortable in my twin bed in Iggy, and it is probably a little weird if I showed up at MA’s now.

I am a 22 year old looking into the future, and although I am absolutely scared shitless, I cannot wait to see what comes next.  I was blessed to have made friends that have taught me how to love myself and that I can effortlessly love back.  I was lucky to have received an education that catered to all of the incredibly weird interests that I have.  I was fortunate to have been able to spend 4 years at one of the greatest places on earth, learning more about myself than I could have ever hoped.  Although my time at BC has come to an end, everything else to come has only barely gotten started.  College was a messy, enlightening, affirming experience and one that I will always cherish.  But the next steps are quickly approaching, and it is time to go out and fly.  Although things will not often be easy, and the blessings of the outside world will have to be sought out, things can only go up from here.  So to everything that has happened and everyone that I have met, thank you and I can’t wait to see where you all go and I hope that I can play a small part in your journey.  To everything that is yet to happen and everyone that I have yet to meet, I couldn’t be more enthused about the memories that will be made.  And it is with a small sense of peace in my heart that I sign off from the Rock, knowing that I will always have a home at Boston College and that the people that mean so much to me will always have a home in my heart.

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