Countdown to Graduation
One senior scrambles to cram in all things Carolina before heading out into the real world.
Just One More Semester, Please
It's official. I don't want to graduate.
I'm not exactly sure when that happened, but a good estimation would be sometime Tuesday night at the Last Lecture and Senior Sendoff while I was raising my glass of sparkling white grape juice for the Senior Toast. I have school spirit (the number of UNC shirts in my closet proves that), but I just haven't really gotten into the whole I'm graduating hoopla like many of my classmates, until now.
Going to the Senior Sendoff was sort of an afterthought, and really just an excuse for me to go to LocoPops beforehand (not that I need that much of an excuse, really.) I didn't actually pay for or eat the dinner, but I wanted to hear the Last Lecture by Ken Strong. I had him as a professor freshman year, and was really devastated when he was diagnosed with brain cancer halfway through the semester. As most students know, it wasn't actually necessary to go to his big lecture drama class because attendance wasn't taken, but I went every day just because I enjoyed his teaching so much. His speech was both funny and inspiring and as corny as it sounds, he really made me forget my small troubles. If he has such a bright attitude for life living with brain cancer, I think I can chill out about my worries.
After the lecture was a quick video from the General Alumni Association. It was kind of presented as a way to honor us, but really was more of an advertisement to join the GAA (which I already did, I have to support the institution that provides the paychecks!) Even if it was nothing more than a glorified ad, I got chills. I'm a sucker for any sort of montage and this one was particularly meaningful as it showed students throughout the years enjoying everything the University campus has to offer. Actually, now that I think about it, that was the exact moment I decided I didn't want to graduate. I really can't imagine my life not involving walking around the UNC campus, so for now, I won't imagine it.
Senior Class Vice President Pinar Gurel then presented the toast. I had never actually seen her or spoken to her, but her name fills up my inbox every week. She began the toast talking about her memories of the four years, and at first I was taken aback, why would I toast to her memories when I don't even know this girl? Turns out, she had the right idea. All of us seniors with our glasses raised had the same big memories throughout our four years. We all went through the same trials and tribulations as a freshman making friends and finding our niche at UNC. We all remember where we were when we saw J.J. Redick cry on national television, giving us a glimpse of who Tyler Hansbrough was to become. Sophomore year brings memories of the Pit breakup (a big deal even when I was studying abroad in London). Junior year memories brought everyone to silence as we remembered the murder of former student body president Eve Carson. And this year, we finally got that national championship with the players we seemingly grew up with our four years at Carolina.
Truth be told, I spent most of this year looking beyond graduation. I must say I'm kicking myself a little bit now. The first month or so of the year was weird for me. I started class a week late because of my late arrival from China, and then spent the first couple of weeks adjusting poorly by going to bed at 6 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m. I wasn't really looking at this year as a big deal because most of my friends had already graduated and I kind of treated last year as my own graduation year. I definitely didn't go out as much this year as I had in years past, and I got a lot more sleep. One thing I did take advantage of was the number of speakers and performances on campus this year. I think coming up soon in my blog is a look back on this year more in depth, and on my time at Carolina in general, so I'll hold back now on the memories.
Last weekend, I casually asked my dad if he minded if I didn't graduate. To do this, I'd have to fail my ultimate Frisbee class (which I'm not sure is even possible at this point), and he wasn't too amused. I guess I don't have a choice. Graduation is happening, whether I like it or not.
April 8 was my twenty-second birthday. I spent much of the day with high school kids, which didn't make me feel too good about entering the land of boring birthdays. My twenty-first birthday was one for the ages. I had my first legal drink at Top O with my dad and twin brother and danced the night away during 90s night at PT's. This birthday there was no dancing, no drinking, but it still managed to be a great memory even though I spent the day fighting the rising tide of nostalgia.
For my internship at the Carolina Alumni Review, I was assigned to cover shadow day, which was put on by the Order of the Bell Tower. About eight kids, most from out of state, attended a short admissions ceremony, and then went off to shadow a college kid. My job was to shadow the shadower. One of my editors thought this would be good fodder for my blog as a graduating senior following a kid who was about to enter college. At first, I didn't really think I'd get much out of it other than a story because I haven't felt too sad or nostalgic about graduating yet. Well, he was right, and the morning was almost like a twilight zone for me. I followed Ronak, a high school junior from Georgia, who followed Chelsea, a sophomore business major at UNC. She showed him the union, the pit, the bell tower and took him to three of the libraries. She talked about how great the bagels at Alpine were and how crazy the pit got around lunchtime. Though I was there to shadow, I couldn't help but put my two cents in here and there. Ronak looked skeptically at the empty pit around 11 a.m. as if he didn't believe how busy it got, but I backed up Chelsea and told him it's the place to be to see and hear everything going on around campus.
As a senior only taking two real classes and filling up every free moment with another job or internship, I don't get much time to relax around campus. I've had my share of typical college experiences, so it's not that I regret staying so super busy this last semester, but it kind of hit me that I couldn't remember the last time I just ate a bagel in the pit to people watch or sun bathed in the quad between classes. I only have one week left, a busy week at that, so I don't know if I'll ever get that feeling again as an undergraduate student at UNC.
Chelsea talked to Ronak about football games in the fall, giving me another strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was the first year that I had attended almost every football game and I do regret not getting excited about football before my senior year. Chelsea talked about what Butch Davis is doing for our program and how much better we're getting and I grew sad knowing that I wouldn't be watching our program mature firsthand. Even when Chelsea talked about where the best places to study were, I found myself remembering back to my evolution as a student. I found a new favorite place to study every year and grew quite attached to my surroundings. Freshman year I studied upstairs at the union, sophomore year was Davis (where my friends and I did more gossiping and laughing and studying), junior year was the Park Library in Carroll Hall, and this year, well I'm a senior so of course I don't study (just kidding!) This year, I managed to hit all my favorite spots at least once, I guess doing my final victory lap of studying. After an hour or so of following Ronak and Chelsea, they went off to her Spanish class and I went back to work, my head reeling from a walk down memory lane.
When I got home to eat lunch and take a break between jobs, I was met with surprise birthday flowers from Gabe. Already somewhat of an emotional wreck from my morning, the flowers were just what I needed to put grin on my face and to continue on with a busy birthday. Next, on my list of things to do was covering a high school softball game in Hillsborough for the News of the Orange. After that, I had made plans to go out to eat with my roommates for a late birthday dinner. That didn't work out so well as the high school game started about an hour and a half late leaving me to watch both the Junior Varsity and Varsity teams and if you want to talk about blast from the past, my heart must have been doing backflips that entire game.
I don't think I've mentioned on this blog, but most people who know me (at least those who know me well) know that softball was my life from about seventh grade to senior year of high school. I was on a travel team with my best friend(s) and spent every weekend in middle of nowhere towns in North Carolina playing softball tournaments. I didn't have much of a social life outside of softball and I loved every minute of it. And luckily, we were good, which made it even more fun. I tried out for the club softball team here at UNC and made it, but decided I had different priorities. I don't regret that decision, but there is a feeling that comes over me every time I pass a ball field that no one can truly understand unless they've played a sport that seriously. Watching a game where I knew all of the cheers and all of the moves each player would take was rough on me (not to mention I had to write down all the stats and take pictures)!
That long drive home from Hillsborough was tough as I had spent a day with memories from my past at a time where I'm stressed out about my future. I was upset I couldn't even get a nice dinner with my roommates, but as soon as I opened my apartment door I was greeted with an amazing surprise from my amazing roommates. I had a cupcake cake (a cake with cupcakes on top because I prefer bite size snacks) and a carton of Harris Teeter Bear Claw ice cream (seriously the most amazing thing I've ever tasted in my entire life, I beg all of you to go get some right now) waiting for me. I ate a cupcake with a bowl of ice cream then collapsed into a sugar coma on the floor. It really was just what I wanted for my birthday.
I'm older now, I don't go out as much as I did when I was 21 and I have bigger worries (it's no longer figuring out which internship I should take, it's more like oh my gosh I hope I can get a job in this struggling economy), so a night full of chocolate and roommates was much more appropriate than the night full of tequila I had just a year earlier. I still enjoy going out and having a good time, but as it was pounded into my head all day, things just aren't like they used to be.
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