Face it: There are a lot of people at this school. Northwestern is listed as a midsize university but our student body isn’t as tightly-woven as I imagined when applying here. I’ve carved out my social circles over my past four years from the halls of Bobb, life in ZBT and the half-dozen student groups I’ve been a part of. And I love my friends. And I love my not-so-close friends too. I don’t see them often enough, but a rare cameo appearance always brightens my day.
But this post isn’t about any of them. This is about all the people who I met once or twice and never gave them the time of day. I’ve met hundreds of people during my four years at Northwestern who, after an introduction and a quick conversation, I forget everything about them except their face and maybe a small fact. It’s not because they’re a boring human beings but because a handshake and a few pleasantries barely cuts skin deep. Inevitably, I will forget. It’s unfortunate to think about how easily someone can come into my life and disappear the next moment. I have no idea if something real will spring from that moment or it’ll be forgotten like so many others.
Inevitably, we become Facebook friends and I will start seeing all of your updates. Each update gives me a free sample-sized taste of who you are but nothing more (and nothing that I’ll remember 30 seconds later). I see that you liked some political cartoon lampooning Santorum or were tagged in a picture by the dyed Chicago River on St. Paddy’s Day or shared a link to that horribly addicting Tumblr #WhatShouldWeCallMe. But, like everything else I’ve found on Facebook, it goes in one eye and out the other.
And I see these people in the unexpected corners of my daily life. They show up behind me when I’m standing in line at Beck’s to buy my last quarter’s books or in the frozen pizza aisle at Dominick’s. Every time I see them, I remember small personal tidbits: She has buttons for The Reagan Revolution: The Real Revolution or has a DVD of I’m Not There or that on Halloween she dressed up as the weird character with the eyelashes from A Clockwork Orange. I remember tiny facts about these people, but know that there is more to their story.
As a Spring Quarter senior, it’s a little scary to think I will never get to hear it. We could have been great friends, but all I remember is some trivial moment about you. Hell, half the time I don’t even remember your name. It’s regrets like those missed opportunities I don’t realize until too late. I’ve worked with some of these people for months, years sometimes, and all I know is that you lived in a seminary one summer or once played the Game of Games (I’m still jealous of you for that).
So, to the freshmen, sophomores and even juniors reading this: Try not to let those opportunities go to waste. You will see and remember the very first person you met here for all four years here. Your social world may seem to contract with each year on campus but there are new people out there, or old acquaintances that you remember from a drunken escapade months, or years ago. Odds are, the other person remembers it, too. Don’t avoid the interaction but confront it. Time is slipping away to avoid having someone stick in your mind after graduation as a footnote to your college memories. I have glimpsed at life after graduation, and the opportunities here to get to know new people dry up.
The Northwestern bubble will pop for me after Commencement on June 15; I don’t intend on wasting my 11 weeks left.
And for my fellow seniors: You only live once.
P.S. If you think you’re the person I mentioned, then you probably are.