College has gone home to college heaven, where it will live on in old Instagram posts, Snapchat clips, Facebook albums and homecoming reunions twenty years from now when everyone we know will have three kids. College lived a long and prosperous four years, from August 18, 2013 – May 13, 2017. We gather here today to celebrate College, to remember what it did for us all, and to pass on the legacy of College to those who will come after us.
Please join me as I indulge in a bout of nostalgia.
College, for me, was born in Abilene, Texas long before I was. For most of my life, College was distant on the horizon, and I dreamed of what it’d be like to be on the Sing Song stage, live in a dorm or eat in the World Famous Bean. My life was flecked with purple and white: I had the onesie, the cheer uniform, the pillow case and the ACU Camp keychains. I won’t forget when College came into my life that fateful August when I was 18 and into Hobby Lobby dorm decor, when the drive down the interstate meant I had a new place to call home.
College began with lofted dorm beds, flickering candles and awkward conversations about our high school selves. As a freshman, I began to find who I wanted to be through Core annotated bibliographies, Chapel forums, late night trips to the Bean for cereal (or probably some peanut butter mixed with granola, yogurt, and chocolate chips), bonfires at Lake Fort Phantom, playing games in the West Lobby of Gardner, and talking with friends upstairs in the library when Starbucks was just a “We Proudly Brew” and there were still books on shelves and I had to search for the perfect table hidden away but close enough to a plug to keep my laptop charged. College became my own when the freshman class won Sing Song, when I became friends with the two girls I sat by in Dr. Steven Moore’s English class and when I started writing news stories for the Optimist, which I’m sure were terrible. I was obsessed with College and I think College was pretty into me too. I knew I had found something special when I cried as I moved out of Gardner Room 107.
In the second year of my relationship with College, we both entered a season of adolescent confusion as responsibilities piled up. The classes got a little harder and the friend groups shuffled around and most everyone’s identity seemed to suddenly be defined by a social club. There were a few hard months for my relationship with College marked by minimal amounts of sleep and yellow skirts, but despite my constant distress, College stayed with me through my messiest and most tired days.
Across oceans and all-nighters, we grew closer. College brought moments that I look back on with longing nostalgia. College has made me question the nature of time and left me wondering how I could possibly love a boring town like Abilene so much it makes my heart ache. College brought me the best friends I’ve ever known. College gave me The Optimist – a weekly list of tasks and stories and emails and pieces of paper that mean more to me than most will ever know. But College is on its deathbed, about to breathe its last. This will be the last column I ever write in this dumb and wonderful publication. And I will leave a part of my heart printed on these pages.
It is slowly sinking in – the reality that in August I won’t return down the flat stretch of I-20 to Exit 288. I will not have to produce a newspaper once a week or swipe into chapel. I won’t sit by the windows upstairs in the library or walk by the GATA fountain and trip over the pavement. I won’t ever be crazy enough to volunteer to be a Sing Song director. I won’t live a block away from my best friends or drive to Whataburger at 11:45 p.m. just because it sounds good. I won’t have to speed walk across campus to make it to my class on the third floor of COBA in time. There will be no more sneaking in to Chapel on the Hill or late nights in the JMC building, no more bid nights or angry emails awaiting me after I publish something controversial. I won’t pop in my professor’s office in the middle of the afternoon to talk about whether I should move to a different country or discern if I should maybe endorse Hillary Clinton for president.
I don’t know if you’ve felt it, or if you’re brave enough to – to feel the changing of the seasons, to notice the shifting winds, to tearfully look your professor in the eye and tell them, “Thank you for helping me become me who I am.” But I’m feeling it all today. I’m terribly excited and terribly sad, but I am ready for whatever’s coming because College really did prepare me for the world.
College is survived by a new incoming class of freshmen who have no idea what they are in for, by another round of sophomores anxious to join a social club, by a new crop of juniors who are really into living off campus, and by upcoming seniors who will someday soon realize how much they actually love this town in the middle of West Texas. It is also survived by a host of faculty and staff who love the students they teach, by mediocre food in the Bean, by everyone in Chapel still not knowing the words to Blessed Be Your Name, by Gardner still smelling like Gardner and the area outside the Bean that always smells like either grilled chicken or garbage, by an ever-growing population of feral cats, by a student government that will really try to make ACU an even better place, by Sing Song that will nearly kill us all with the black plague, by never ending construction on science buildings, by the highlighters that some of us got from the Christian Village during a Homecoming Parade when we were children, by Sharky’s ranch, by another year of The Optimist angering a very acute percentage of the student body, by the Lord Bless You and Keep You reverberating through the rafters of Moody Coliseum.
In lieu of flowers, please bring a box of Kleenex to my graduation.