I couldn’t wait to put on that cap and gown. I was tired of staying up until 2 AM to study for final exams, tired of toting around my art portfolio with final design pieces, tired of financial aid paperwork and eating the same meals in the dining halls. And when I threw my cap up into the stifling hot mid-May air at the end of our graduation ceremony, I felt ready. Ready to pack up the belongings in my teensy-tiny dorm room, ready to pull an alumni tee-shirt over my head, ready to call this a new chapter and start the grueling process of searching for a big-girl job. Stepping out of that football stadium, I was ready to start counting down the days until my diploma would arrive in the mail, fresh off the printing press with my name in pristinely scripted letters.
What I wish I knew then is that I would be sitting at home in mid-September missing all of the moments that made up those four college years. That I would be craving a plate of steaming hot pasta from the organic station in the cafeteria. That I would be wishing I was sitting on the quad with a bowl of fro-yo. That I would miss the view from the top floor of the library. That I would rather be writing an academic paper than just aimlessly surfing the internet. That I would be yearning for one more midnight diner trip when we were tired of studying for that last final exam and “so ready” to put on those caps and gowns.
I wish I knew that it goes by so quickly, so much faster than you expect. That one day, you’re walking into academic buildings as a freshman, hoping you don’t walk into the wrong classroom, and the next, you’re shaking hands with the university president as he says, “Congratulations.”
And if I had the choice, I’d wish to go back to freshman year and do it all. over. again. Every piece: the cramming for essay tests, the 20-page thesis, the weekly internship commutes, the coming and going of friendships, the leaky dorm room ceilings, the aggravating financial aid phone calls, the cafeteria coffee bar, the hours of sitting in the library, the hours of sitting in the art studios, the less than stellar wi-fi connection, the midnight rides to the grocery store, the shenanigans and pranks played on neighbors… I’d rewind and start all over again if it meant reliving all the memories I crammed into the past four years.
So to the Class of 2016: live. every. moment. Skip an hour of sleep and go to the diner with your friends instead. Order your favorite stack of pancakes, and grab an extra shot of espresso in your coffee on the way to class the next morning. You won’t regret it.
And to the Class of 2012: embrace the nostalgia. Keep in touch with your fellow alumni; preface every story with the words “do you remember,” even though you’ll never forget. You can’t forget those moments.