This is the last article I will ever write for The Echo. As I type, I can picture my words faded, position replaced and presence forgotten.
Equal parts liberation and isolation will throttle the next few months of my life with a similar torque that my fingers held around the neck of a liquor bottle at my first “real college party.” In spite of the devastation my eyes faced freshman year, while I balanced extreme intoxication and ruthless schoolwork, my current standing is completely sobering.
The haziness no longer pollutes my retinas: It’s taking form at my feet. Nostalgia dominates my farewell tour to university life. Everything I’ve experienced the last few months–karaoke nights, coffee dates, academic conferences–is playing its encore. It’s almost time to find a ride home out of this venue.
I spent my last night staying at the newspaper until 4 a.m. I clocked out of sunrise crusades on meaningless, procrastinated assignments. I completed my final projects and purchased my overpriced cap and gown garb.
College was great, but I am sure glad it’s over. I learned a lot. Attending UCA was fundamental in my development into the person I am today. Now, however, I feel rested and ready to learn from the world beyond Conway, which is very unlike the fluorescent-emulating classrooms of the university.
Academically and professionally, I gained a lot in college. My professors, advisers, classmates and coworkers taught me not only about journalism and philosophy, but also what it means to be a well-rounded person. They tested my strength, embraced my flaws and encouraged my passions.
Though what I’ll recall most from college are the candid moments I shared with the people I was close to. Those cold afternoons and noir nights taught me more about life than any philosopher or physics textbook could. Candid life moments had nothing to do with 12-page papers, GPA or attendance records.
For me, what I learned in college went beyond where any thesis paper could take me; It was where life could unfold and I could explore knowing I was safe. I learned about the value of silence when I sat on the curb with friend after his mother was admitted into the hospital. I discovered intimacy when my girlfriend and I lay side-by-side in my bed at 3 a.m. on school nights, sharing our fears and aspirations. I found the limits of livelihood when I ran out of class to rescue a friend attempting suicide in a bloody bathroom so motionless I swore time had ceased.
Spending time with people who thought, acted and spoke differently contributed as much to my time at UCA as my 16-hour class schedule. I am better for having the chance to learn and grow alongside the people I met during the time I spent here. I feel like I can be honest when I say that I “learned a lot in college.”
It seems like only moments ago that I left my mother’s home to move into my cinderblock cell dorm room. I sailed into an empty horizon where the waves carried uncertainty and the sky was decorated with unlimited potential. What I feel now that I’m graduating is very similar.
I suspect that much like my initial adjustment to college, my chapter after college will take time to grapple. But now that I’ve cleared that hurdle, I’m carefully aiming my next shot. I’m not sure what that will mean yet, but I have the rest of my life to figure it out.
Graduating is not an endpoint, but rather a starting line for the rest of my life. Thank you to my advisers, professors, mentors, roommates, coworkers, colleagues, friends and family for keeping me motivated and focused. It’s been a pleasure to have shared some of my time here with you all. I’ll never forget the love I found here.
This won’t be the last you hear from me. This isn’t “goodbye,” but rather, “see you later.”
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2, 2015 print edition of The Echo.
Photo via Sterling Imageworks