June 27 2015

Of Nots, Knots and Nott – Reflections On Becoming A College Senior

theknottA few days ago I stood in the quad by the Nott—a sixteen sided building and landmark of Union’s campus. Bagpipes played and I stood with my aunt as a stream of graduates walked out through this building that offered corners to study, galleries to explore art, floors to dance, and side walks to run around simply because of a unifying understanding of tradition and sense of home. Now this building was opening its doors to release the Class of 2015 out into the next phase of its life.

As we waited for my cousin to walk by tears swarmed my eyes. This in no way surprised me. Although sad movies never bring tears, I am incredibly nostalgic and sentimental. Moments of change always catch me. As I composed myself I wondered about the trigger of the tears. Of course I was proud of each graduate but the music, the sun, the symbolism of the caps and gowns and the towering Nott serving as a beacon and life long anchor and guardian all hit me. I was swooped up in the overall energy and meaning of the ceremony.

All at once memories flitted through my mind as the grads walked by. Freshman year, graduation came and went while I was already enjoying summer. A few seniors stood out as individuals but as freshmen, my peers and I had been, for the most part, too far removed from the eldest class. It was the sophomores, the Class of 2015 whom now took its first tentative steps away from Union, who had lived in the dorms beside us, told us about parties, still joined our intro classes and lower class dining hall for Sunday brunches. Although they might not have admitted it, as sophomores they were still figuring out Union and their place here. By offering us what advice and insight they could, they looked informed and confident and could thus continue finding their way while passing on the knowledge that we would share the following year.

Now they were leaving. The comforts and patterns we take for granted and expect were changing.

When something begins, we seldom consider it ending. We never join a sports team and dedicate our time to practice, bonding and playing, with the mentality that this will one day end and we will have to move on. When we began college we never thought, although we always knew, “This will end.” That is a fatalist thought and we pushed it aside while we powered through papers and exams, woke up for class, danced where ever music played, ordered pizza at unusual hours, spent too much time talking over meals, and stayed up way too late doubled over laughing with friends. We lived, absorbed and imbedded in this world of college because we had only four years and why not soak in as much as we possibly can from the years that we have?

I am talking like a senior. I still have one year and as I think towards the year that I will have to face come mid-September—thank you, Union, for having trimesters that allow students to confront and commence senior year last of their friends—I think I will be prepared. By the time next June arrives I will feel ready thanks not to only how I filled my hours and spent my time but also for the relationships and support I gained from family, friends and faculty members.

That being said, times of self-doubt arise. Majoring in Art History sounded like a great idea when I was a freshman and a safe distance away from facing a job search and paying for an apartment, insurance and so on, when I could to still relish in and soak up academia. Now the deadline is less than a year away. Have I made the right choices? Are my parents proud? Do they think I am a lost cause? Have I done everything I can and need to do? Do I know everything I can and need to do?

courageYep, I have definitely second-guessed a time or two, as I am sure many juniors past and present have and will. Then the day before graduation I went to Baccalaureate where three seniors gave speeches meant for their class to reflect on but the words sunk into my thoughts. From the three student speeches to the president’s closing remarks, each speaker reiterated the notion of carving and trusting our own paths. As cliché as it may sound and although people and quotes say it, we must listen to ourselves. The one thing we can always count on is having our self. For every doubtful look someone may cast or scoff a parent may give, trust who you are and who you have become. Listen to what makes you happy and awakens your unstoppable energy. In the end, what matters is the relationships we made, the lessons we learned and grew from, and the positivity and excitement we internalize and radiate.

As I enter senior year of college, my younger sister enters her freshman year and two of her friends will join Union. While I often think and say that I wish I were in their place again, I began thinking beyond that. I am so grateful for the time I have had and am pleased with the way I spent it. I share memories with many people, but my collage of moments and feelings are my own and I am happy to be able to keep them with me and call them my own. It was and will continue to be my journey and an intertwined but individual journey for everyone. So, while we can always wish to go back, rewind, slow down, press pause, and so one we must also remember that had each of these blips and little moments occurred at any other time, they would have been with other people, other places and entirely different. Yes, I would love to start my college life over again but would also have it no other way. These past three years have taught me so much and unfolded in ways I never expected or could have anticipated, and so did the years before that and, believe it or not, the years that are yet to come.

The unexpected is absolutely terrifying and that’s what this year, without so many people who helped create and stir the previous years, is. An unknown. But others have stepped through this liminal stage and other unknowns have existed before this transition. However, we cannot move with fear into what we are unable to predict. We must understand that because something is unknown it has infinite possibilities. As long as we move with positivity, open-mindedness, flexibility, and trust life will continue to carry us and if we believe in our passion with mindful determination, the best is always yet to come. And as it comes, we accumulate new memories and friends while building from and enhancing the old.

With all that being said, I am excited for senior year. Yes the first few days will feel odd. I will anticipate hearing old voices and seeing old faces but they will not be there. Still, they are never far away. It is so easy to stay in touch these days and if we spend time reflecting, not living and getting stuck in the past, the memories will be vivid enough until the next time we all come together. My good friends are still around whether it means living next door to them off campus and making new memories over family dinners and learning to live in real homes or repeating old habits of late night conversations and playing “Wagon Wheel” and “Dancing In The Moonlight”.  As seniors we will look at college from another perspective and hopefully move forward with less inhibitions and openness to getting to know that person we always meant to say hi to or going to that event for trying that hike or restaurant. It is a year to make the most of every moment and as one Baccalaureate speaker suggested, “Make moments to make the most of.” I am happy to be part of the school and traditions I and my peers have entered into and I am thrilled to have another year to take advantage of all school has to offer, from thesis to senior week. It’s another year, it may be the last, but that is even more of a reason to embrace it.

Danielle Frederick is a rising senior at Union College and a SFTL contributing writer.

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