All these years later, my mom was right — somehow, I did manage to be late to my college graduation. Not late enough where I missed anything too important, but late enough where my parents watched me slink in, head down, praying to God no one noticed. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised. I’ve never been a punctual person, and being afflicted with both “senioritis” and a graduate school acceptance has certainly not helped. It was the end to the strangest semester so far.
I had actually been planning to live out my final semester, pandemic aside, in Downtown Binghamton with my friends. In a twist of events that only could’ve been chalked up to my unique brand of bad luck, I had to return home to New Jersey. I vacated my apartment after we discovered that a bat had been frequenting my walls and closet for several weeks, with no plans of exiting the space anytime soon. I actually really like bats — they can be super cute, they have fascinating immune systems and are essential to our environment. But this bat, the one squatting in my living space, was one with whom I had a bone to pick. I honestly would’ve been fine with the little guy if he had provided some rent assistance, or offered to lessen the number of late-night screech sessions per week, but what’s a girl to do? I let the dude have my room and headed back home. My parents called me “batgirl” for weeks.
Spending the semester in my childhood bedroom was weird, but it forced me to spend a lot of time alone with myself. I started doing things that made me happy, without a single thought given as to what others might think. I’ve been slowly progressing out of my sweatpants and T-shirt uniform and back to normal clothes. I’ve been whitening my teeth and taking my vitamins. Hell, I’ve even been putting on sunscreen every day — I actually kind of feel like a real adult. (That’s a myth, no one ever really does.) Taking care of myself has gone from an obligation, to an over-the-top splurge that usually involved spending too much money, to a part of how I organize my day. This idea may not sound earth-shattering, but I spent a lot of middle school, high school and even some of college as a bit of a doormat — putting everyone else’s needs before my own. I also know that my world is going to completely spin around once I start grad school, so I may as well begin my new life with stronger confidence and a deeper care for myself than I had in years prior.
Classes, major changes, internships and organizations aside, that was one of the best things I’ve taken away from college. If there’s anything I can say to those who have time left, it’s this: invest in yourself. Go back to what you wanted when you were 5 years old. Or 10. Or even 17, and just try it. There is this wonderful little safety net you have in college, so please use it. Learn more about everything that interests you, even if it doesn’t “matter” in relation to your degree. (That’s also a myth we’ve all grown up learning — everything matters eventually. Or nothing matters! It all depends on your perspective!) Dress just like that one stranger you passed on the street and will never forget, try new foods and throw yourself into your interests with passionate abandon. Working for this section has shown me that there will always be someone who disagrees with you. At the end of the day, there will be people who don’t like you, sometimes for no real reason, so stop living for their opinions. It took me 22 years to figure out, but you truly can’t satisfy everyone, much less make everyone happy, so you should at least focus on keeping one person consistently happy — yourself.
Mom, Dad, Sam, Meghan, Nick and all the animals in my house: thank you for taking care of me. I know that you’ve worked so hard to give me the opportunities I’ve had, and I don’t think grateful is a strong enough word for what I feel. We have always been unconventional, and we are still the coolest family I know. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love you from the bottom of my heart.
Evan: I have a feeling you already know everything I could say here. I do not understand you in the slightest. How someone could be filled with so much genuine love and care for those around them, while asking nothing in return, is beyond me. You have helped me wake up with the intention of being a better person every day.
Val: I don’t care how far away we are from each other, I will always be your Lizard. I have never met someone so kind and bubbly, and I will gladly flirt with you in every digital medium known to man for decades to come. You are a blessing in every sense of the word.
Lakhsmi and Kim: I would not have survived this semester without you. Period. Your kindness, support and understanding have made me feel less alone despite the miles and miles between us. Every time I doubted myself, or questioned my actions, you reminded me why I do what I do. You made every hardship this year worth it.
Kaitlyn: You are a star. I know that sounds corny as hell, but I mean it. You are going to run this section with more wisdom, skill and power than I ever could’ve imagined. I can’t wait to watch you succeed, and I will be your biggest fan along the way. Thank you for screaming at the world with me.
To the bat: I’m sure there’s a metaphor in you somewhere, but I’m still figuring it out.
Before I wrap up, I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite movies — this really sweet little indie film called “Liberal Arts.” It came into my life as I started college, and it hit close to home in an almost eerie way. Like one of the protagonists, I, too, was a college student named Elizabeth who spent time in an improv group, unsure of what she wanted from life. Like her, I also wanted to “rush the process” of learning and growing up. Turns out I didn’t have to rush, time did that all on its own. I don’t think you’re supposed to “find yourself” in college. You’re supposed to be an ever-changing rough draft, edits and revisions constantly pouring in. I’m my best rough draft so far and deep down I know one thing — it’s all gonna be OK. Thanks for all the notes.
Elizabeth Short is a senior majoring in English and is Opinions editor. She was assistant Opinions editor from 2019-2020.