I have the embarrassing habit of writing things in my head long before they come to pass (if they ever do). Notable examples include my high school valedictorian address, Instagram captions for imagined future events, anecdote-filled toasts I’ll someday raise at my friends’ weddings. This column is also on that list—when I learned freshman year that the graduating seniors of NBN traditionally write a farewell piece upon the end of their time at Northwestern, I immediately started thinking about what I, three full years later, would want to say.
As my undergrad career has gone by, I’ve considered the collection of hilarious memories and poignant moments I’ve amassed, debating which would be my clever hook to act as an emblem of my truly strange and wonderful college experience as a whole.
Some frontrunners: the time I serendipitously happened upon an unopened Wild Cherry Capri Sun outside of 1838 after a night out, which I later learned (after drinking the contents of the pouch) had actually fallen from the coat pocket of a dear friend hours before. Or when I was somehow allowed in Deering during an interactive performance of Clue and was trapped there writing an essay while theater majors screamed and fake-died for a live audience. Maybe the Seattle Incident, in which I fainted outside of a bar after (legally and accidentally!) getting super crossed on a class trip. Perhaps, most cinematically, a senior spring confession to my best friend at the Bahá'í temple, brought on by 20 seconds of insane courage.
The list goes on! But it’s just that – a list. No single moment, no matter how significant or memorable, will ever be able to paint a full picture of the last four years. This was true even before the pandemic but is true even more so now. How do I pinpoint a single experience that averages out times of incandescent happiness, surrounded by friends, with five long months in isolation, alone and depressed as I watched so many suffer even more greatly from afar? I can’t.
Many things can be true at the same time. College was great, and it wasn’t. I’ve been deeply disappointed by this institution, particularly in its frequent flagrant disregard for its most marginalized students. The wealth and, frankly, alternate realities of some of my peers is mind-boggling, and much more will need to be done than just having 20% of an incoming class receive Pell grants to make any kind of significant change in the economic culture on campus. And just when I thought certain frats known for enabling the abuse of young women would be banned for good, or that – astonishingly! – all of Greek life itself would finally fade into obscurity where it belongs, the antics of the Northwestern elite never cease to amaze me.
But I’m also incredibly thankful for all this school has given me – an education fully funded by scholarships, grants that paid for my health insurance and summer internships and sent me on my first (and only) trip abroad, the best work-study job I could have asked for. Without Northwestern, I would never have met some of the best friends I’ve ever had, who understand me in ways I can’t fully describe and who, without a shadow of a doubt, will be in my life long after graduation festivities end. Truly, the vast majority of people I’ve met here are smart and funny and kind – though I will obviously keep a mental list of enemies whom I will despise forever, as any good Scorpio should.
As much as I hate the idea of ending my very last piece for NBN with ambivalence, lacking words of wisdom or some grand conclusion, I think it’s the right choice. I don’t know how to concisely summarize college. Besides anxiously awaiting the approval of a lease application for an apartment in Chicago, I don’t know what will come next for me. But I do know that I’ll keep each memory of my time at Northwestern in the back of my brain – which often refuses to forget anything, even when I want it to – and let time do the rest.