Last Saturday I attended the yearbook drop party in the Rec Center, a low ceiling space with low lights and more than a handful of my fellow AU students milling about, some knowing where to land, others looking a little less sure if they were welcome. If you’ve never been down in that cave beneath the Student Center, the walls are covered in past copies of our newspaper. An archival mural was plastered on the concrete blocks after my freshman year. If you hunt, you’ll find my name once in the expanse of photos, articles and memories. While I made small talk with a couple of other upperclass-persons, a freshman took the mic. I’ve sat across from her in Chemistry this year, but never took the time to get to know her. In the blue and red lights she sang an Adele cover. She claimed it as her own with Spanish replacing the original lyrics. She seemed more at home in this tongue, as she seemed more at home in that space than I did. I exist on the walls there. My time behind the mic is nearly done.
It’s an unsettling feeling, to look around a campus you’ve called home for four years and feel it slipping away from you, to feel it starting to belong to others more than you. But I guess that’s the nature of universities, to be homes to the transient. And perhaps that’s the way places of learning should be, sanctuaries for the next generation, for new thought.
There is a series of lasts that accompanies senior year. The last Secret Santa party my friends and I hold in Forsyth House. The last class with the English teacher that convinced me to be a double major. The last first snow fall and the last first blooms of spring. The last walk to class under the magnolias that bloom between Marsh and Hamel. The last IRB experiment proposal that took a proverbial lifetime to get accepted. The last Spring Break wishing I had done more instead of catching up on sleep that procrastination-born all nighters had stolen. The last barefoot walk down Silver Beach at sunset, saying goodbye to the adopted family members you can’t imagine living without, but who will be three thousand miles away in just a few days. Everybody says that time heals everything. We’ll see.
When I walk away from Andrews this year, it will not be the same campus I drove onto with a car full of clothes and a mind full of expectations four years ago. I believe we’re braver, more “woke” and readier to acknowledge our shortcomings. This year I pledged to hold AU accountable. I hope that I’ve held to my word. We’ve addressed issues that were necessary, even the uncomfortable. In September we confronted too oft ignored anti-Asian prejudice and orientalism in our community. In October, when the SDA General Conference threatened feminist leaders, we spoke out. At a time when Muslims in America felt threatened, we raised their voices. We’ve given platform to the vast and various sides of the black experience at AU. And when our student body called for an apology, we rallied on the side of justice. Never in the course of this year did we receive more negative letters to the editor than during the #ItIsTimeAU movement. But I speak for my whole team, of which I am irrevocably proud, when I say that we would stand up for truth a thousand times again, no matter the response.
In the weekend before the last week of classes I ran my first half marathon. I trained for several months, showed up the morning of the race, and met my goal. However, when I finished, I wondered why I hadn’t run faster. I was mad at myself for not draining every ounce of energy from my tanks, for being able to walk at the end. Finality is a scary thing. I can’t rerun that race. I can’t go back and change the words we’ve printed this year. My GPA doesn’t have much chance of jumping up that .24 in this last week. My pessimism gets the best of me and I wonder if it was enough.
I can’t answer that. The mic isn’t in my hands any more. The one who carries it now can decide. I, along with the other members of the class of 2017, will take my singular place on the walls and be the backdrop for the new voices. In the meantime, I’ve got a new race to train for.