I have always been perplexed by people who say that they wouldn’t want to live forever. I remember reading Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt as a child and finding myself unable to understand the protagonist’s decision to abandon her immortality, and throughout my youth, believed that in the same position I would do the opposite without thinking twice.
In the same vein, I’ve always felt terrible for the graduating seniors. That feeling was most salient as a junior this time last year, as it was the first time in which I’d had strong personal relationships with the people that would be leaving Emory. I pitied them and was passionately grateful that I had another year left. I couldn’t imagine leaving behind all of the things I’d come to love about Emory. Just as I’ve been mystified by those people who would reject the hypothetical opportunity to live forever, I couldn’t understand how my friends in the year above me approached graduation with such a sense of certainty and ease.
As a result, I spent most of my senior year clinging to each day, relishing in the small bit of time I had left in Atlanta. When the ides of March gave way to April Fools, it hit me: I was about to begin my last full month as an undergraduate. Suddenly, everything I did felt like a last: my last fraternity formal, my last Model United Nations conference, my last time staying up all night in Robert W. Woodruff Library. Although the libraries in law school will likely be equally hospitable (and almost definitely serve better coffee), the point remains that I’ll miss even the most mundane and unexciting aspects of Emory.
In these last few weeks, I’ve realized how last year’s seniors attained the sense of calm in the face of graduation that I’d previously thought counterintuitive, or even delusional. Instead of reflecting on how things are coming to an end, I’ve focused on appreciating how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned from the triumphs and failures I’ve had here along the way. I’ve met people that have helped shape my ambitions, challenging me to strive for a future I would have once considered unattainable. Truly, I owe the way I define my hopes and dreams to the individuals I’ve become close to at Emory. To those of you reading, you know who you are; thank you.
It is my satisfaction with my experiences here that have led me to a conclusion that would have shocked me this time last year. I am ready, and even excited, to leave. This is not to say that I will not miss many aspects of Emory, but only that my time here has provided me with enough and more than I could have ever asked for when I was dropped off in Atlanta what somehow feels like simultaneously four years, ten seconds and a lifetime ago.
On the eve of my graduation, I’ve learned to accept that, like life, college cannot last forever. By appreciating my past at Emory for all it’s done for me, I am able to approach that end, not with fear, but with gratitude for times past and a shining hope for the future yet to come.
Tyler Zelinger is a BBA and political science major in the Goizueta Business School from Commack, N.Y.