“Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through.” — Before Midnight Movie
On Wednesday, April 22, I spoke at a global connections night at Alan C. Pope High School in Cobb County. This was the first time I had attended a high school event since I was in high school four years ago. With the impending close of my college days around the corner, this was a particularly enlightening experience. I realized how much I had forgotten about what it was like to be in high school compared to college. I immediately recalled the last days of my high school career, the days when I felt like I really had the world out in front of me. It was an electric time: I felt big, I felt strong, I had just gotten my first tattoo: it says “libertine.” I had been accepted to Emory, my top choice and “reach school.” I had been barred from my senior prom for bad behavior and I had just finished my first poetry volume. That time in my life was a beautiful mess, and I’ll never forget it. But after returning to a high school last night, I question how my memory of that period has been affected by my time in college: how the visceral imagery of the memories has been altered and refashioned by the past four years. I felt big, I felt strong, I thought I knew who I was but in truth I was just getting acquainted.
When I was a kid, I used to tell my mom, “I can’t wait to go to college.” And she would say, “but won’t you miss your mother?” to which I would respond, “It’s okay, you can come too!” I wonder what college would have been like if I actually brought her with me. The same four years, the same classes, the same friends, all with mama by my side. All the same decisions, the good, the bad and the ugly, but with her there, just observing, always knowing, aware of the consequences of my actions. Needless to say, I’m glad that she didn’t take me up on my offer to join me at school, but I always think about what it would have been like. Her eyes, not judging, but just observing, perhaps thinking of her own college days and how the times have clearly changed. “We all partied,” she would say, “Just not this much.” I think about why we seem to have let ourselves go sometimes. Why is the guy in the back row of your lecture who can answer any combinatorics problem spending his evenings draining beers and cutting lines only to return to the library and hit the books the next day? As freshmen, we called it “work hard, play hard” and it was a point of pride. It allowed us to party like UGA and conduct research like Tech. We were the ultimate middle ground, and we were truly proud of it.
However, at the end of an era (so to speak), I’m trying to reason with exactly why we chose that lifestyle. Surely, not all of us lived this way, but in some fashion we all struck a balance between work and play, decency and vice. It’s an old maxim that every generation thinks it is witnessing the end of the world; however, I feel that perhaps our generation feels more strongly about this than ever. The world is moving at an exponential pace and maybe we don’t feel prepared. Parts of our brains want to learn, educate, innovate and progress in order to maintain prosperity, but the other part, the defeatist part, wants to give up: party until the seas rise, “we did the best we could,” is what we would say.
For the past four years, I have lived this life. I have walked the line between hope and defeat, and I have watched my friends and peers do the same. With graduation just two weeks away, the only thing I can think is that we cannot let this happen. We cannot let this moment slip through our hands, we cannot throw away everything we’ve learned over the past four years. We need to learn from our moments of doubt and triumph in our moments of success. We have spent this time building a community, and as we all go off in our own directions, we cannot let ourselves break apart. The experiences we’ve shared need to be bonds that we continue to hold for life, because they are the bonds that will keep us afloat, they are the bonds that will give us hope, they are the bonds that will keep us alive. Even if we are just passing through, we are passing through together, and the importance that we give one another never disappears, some might even call it love.
So four years down the line, I’m still living in the beautiful mess. I still feel big, I still feel strong, I’ve just gotten my third tattoo, it says: “yes, yes, we’re magicians.” I don’t know where I’m living next year, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I have hope, not just for myself, but for all of us.
Bobby Weisblatt is from Belle Mead, New Jersey. He is graduating with a B.A. in English and Film Studies.