A little less than four years ago, I was gearing up for the annual Comotto family reunion in Ocean City.
I had a month before heading to JHU. And a day before heading to the beach.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that frenzied, flustered Saturday turned out to be my first blogging deadline.
You see, I had every intention of submitting a post to Hopkins’ Summer Blogging Contest. I had struck a deal with my parents. I could write the optional essay (lol no) or send something to the bloggers at Hopkins Interactive, the gods of the admitted students Facebook group. Lit crit or personal narrative? An easy choice for this creative writing fanatic.
But despite my best intentions, I found myself procrastinating. Hard. Given my admittedly Type A (read: high-strung) personality, this was wildly out of character. I had so much to say! Too much to say. My thoughts and feelings about starting college were one big ball of nerves and excitement, and it took me the better part of that Saturday to unravel it all. I just barely made the deadline. But thank goodness I did, or perhaps you’d be reading the ramblings of a more well-adjusted person, and I’d be channeling my angst on Tumblr or something.
This memory feels fresh because it is. I’m four years older, arguably four years wiser, and here I am, waiting until the very last minute to submit a blog because there’s just too much to say, and I’m scared I’m not wise enough to say it.
This, dear reader, is the end. My final post as JHU_Allison.
Classes ended weeks ago. I sped through my last final and have spent the past seven days squeezing every remaining memory out of my time at Hopkins. I graduate tomorrow. I type it, and it feels just as surreal. Because that 17-year-old girl racing against the clock and musing about her future is still more me than this graduated, employed person. It’s like putting on a pair of shoes that are just the slightest bit too big. They look good. But I can assure you I’m one misstep away from shattering that pretty illusion (and probably my ankle in the process).
The truth? I’m not ready. But perhaps you’d already guessed that.
There’s a platitude people pull out at times like this: “It’s not goodbye; it’s see you later!” But let’s not sugarcoat it. I’m saying goodbye to Hopkins. Saying goodbye to being a student, something I’ve spent my whole life perfecting. Saying goodbye to the best people, the best memories, the best four years I’ve lived.
In a fit of nostalgia, I went back and read everything I’ve ever posted on Hopkins Interactive. I relived the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, the big things (dropping Pre-Law), and the small (reviewing Baltimore weather for you West Coast/Best Coast fools). With my four years laid out before me, I decided that while I will be wallowing in withdrawal for months to come, I still have a heck of a lot to celebrate. And maybe one more ounce of wisdom to impart before I go.
To all you crazy kids embarking on a college journey:
There will be disappointment. Freshman Allison cried in her dorm room after not getting into her ~dream~ a cappella group. The plans you make before you begin seem so important, but rarely do things go the way you intended. See those letdowns as the thorny opportunities they truly are. The day after that rejection, I was invited to join Hopkins Interactive. The next weekend? Cast in the Freshmen One Acts. Look at me now, a blogging, acting fool who wasted zero hours learning how to beatbox.
There will be uncertainty. Remember when I told everyone and their mother that I was destined to be a lawyer? Lol. Once again, you think you know exactly what you want. You don’t. And that’s okay! I experimented with different major and minor combos for two semesters before landing in marketing and never looking back. Now I have a copywriter job lined up, the perfect blend of my Writing Sems major and Marketing & Comms minor. It all works out. Enjoy the freedom to explore. It’s a limited resource.
There will be loss. You’re going to get knocked down over the course of your four years. And it will be a hard fall. There were days during my junior year when I wasn’t entirely sure I’d make it to graduation. But getting rid of the dead stuff makes room for lovely, living things. Whether you fail an exam, explode a relationship, or get rocked by something out of your control, accept that loss is a fundamental growing pain. You may not end up better for it, but you’ll certainly be tougher.
There will be victory. And the victories will outnumber the losses, ten to one. On Monday, during Phi Beta Kappa induction, I experienced that indescribable moment of recognition when someone is saying nice things—and the nice things are about you. I listened as the legendary Professor Macksey read excerpts of my faculty nomination, written by none other than the man who has had the most influence on my academic life, Greg Williamson. Stepping up to that podium and receiving the Richard A. Macksey award was as surreal as it gets. As my dad always says, “This is why you lift all them weights.” Hard work will go rewarded. And sometimes in a matter of minutes, it will all feel completely worth it.
There will be legacy. There’s a common fear among prospective and current students alike: feeling small. Inconsequential. One of many. A face in the crowd. But this is hardly your destiny. Your capacity to leave your community better than you found it is endless. I didn’t contribute to any medical research, didn’t serve in student government, didn’t save a life. There are plenty of Hopkins students who can put those items on their resumes. But I did change Hopkins’ theatre culture by (somehow) pulling off the first Orientation Theatre Showcase. Now it’s an O-Week staple. And when I see all of the crossover between theatre groups—something that barely existed when I was a freshman—I see my legacy.
There will be joy. Unparalleled, unmitigated joy. The kind that makes you stay up until three in the morning when you have a 9am. The kind that pulls your heart all across the country, because now you love people from places you’ve never even seen. The kind that makes saying goodbye so hard. I will miss many of my classmates. They have filled my time at Hopkins with joy. But my roommates have given me the gift of a joyful life. You will meet people who redefine your perception of the word “soulmate.” And in four short years, you won’t get to walk out of your bedroom, and sit on their floor, and convince them to get Chipotle with you. I can’t tell you exactly what that feels like, but I’m about to find out. So measure your life in love, baby. Revel in everyday joy. Let it take your breath away.
You will survive and love and laugh and despair and wish you had infinite time to do it all over again.
I’ll leave you—really, truly leave you—with the most practical advice I can offer.
Document your time at college. Biweekly blogging deadlines forced me to do the most recording and processing I’ve done in my life, and I’m ten times better for it. My memories are safe, preserved, active. Even if it’s just a collection of photos, capture every moment you can. I know it’s painfully cliché, but college is so temporary, so fleeting. Make it last past the numbered days.
Take courage. Embrace uncertainty, and chase joy. Be the person you’ll be proud to read about in thirty years.
Leave something behind.