By Elizabeth Ward
The party was loud and we were being obnoxious as ever. My friends trying to impress one another with their talents; their ideas, while I sat out in the stairwell having an existential crisis. I was being reckless. I had stopped doing the things that I loved, I lost sight of my own talents, and couldn’t bare hearing others being proud of theirs. As drunk as I might have been, I knew I had screwed up a lot over the course of a year. 2015 was by far the most difficult year of my life. Two car crashes, countless failed loves, and too many regrets on opportunities I should’ve chased after. Last September, I found myself in the biggest rut; my writing was suffering, nothing was from the heart, and all my ideas seemed trivial to me, though others were clinging to them. These friends of mine, they adore me, still do and I appreciate them all. But in that moment, I didn’t feel that anything mattered. A stranger came out from this party, someone new.
He asked me “why are you crying?”. That was a question that I couldn’t answer in just a few words.
I had to put it all together…
I was once a great runner, I believed I could do anything out on the field.
I was once a pretty good writer, people came to me for advice on how to better theirs.
I was once a good daughter, I was never one to back talk or lie to my parents.
I was once a good sister, I would tell my brother anything.
I was once a lot of things….
But when I started to question myself and let myself fall into a pit of despair and self loathing, it all stopped being good. So, a stranger was hearing all of this. A stranger who hardly knew me as more than just a girl who was friends with his friends. A stranger who was interested in seeing the good in me come back.
He would tell me that night, “for all the moments that have made you question yourself, the people in that room still see the good.”
I hadn’t lost any of this, I had just forgot. I could still do all the things I loved, if I just didn’t allow myself to forget. He might have been a stranger to me then, but this person took a drunken existential crisis, and revealed to me that the past four years were not to be remembered by hardships, but by what we’ve overcome. Seniors either think about the future, live in the moment, or forever remain the average college student that isn’t ready to move on to the real world. Before that stranger came to me and brought about this realization of what I truly am, I was in a limbo.
What I know now is that throughout the years, I’ve built myself and brought myself down over and over again. I’ve cried over silly things and cried out of grief. I’ve seen friends come and go, and that is what I know. What I forgot was how those things haven’t been able to bring me down. In a moment of weakness in that stairwell, I picked myself up, smiled at this stranger, and knew I would be okay. The thing we forget to remind ourselves of as students preparing to graduate, is that we did it. We’re here. We are finally at that moment in our lives where that decision of making a check mark on our application or a change in majors over the years will finally pay off. The best part of it all is that we can now decide what we do with it. I write to my fellow seniors here and everywhere, I hope that they take this to heart:
That stranger, that person I mentioned before, we all have someone or something that came around when we thought all else was impossible. This stranger, this friend whose short words meant the world to me, said something that I now know I need to promise myself.
“When I see you again, I want to see you as even better than I left you.”
He didn’t say this because where I am now in life is bad. No, he said this because just as I should aspire to do, everyone graduating should aspire to be better than the day you step across that stage. To come back together one day to your friends you’ve made here and show them the better self you have built, and to be proud of everything that you do. We may cry knowing that some of those friends will be going away to pursue their dreams, but even if you’re still where you were before you crossed that stage, never stop building, and never forget what you did for yourself to get there.