On Saying Goodbye to College

This post has been a long time coming, but finally, the one on saying goodbye, once and for all, to college. This is probably the last time I post something this fucking sentimental.

It’s best not to prolong goodbyes.

When you pack up to leave from the place you’ve called home for the past four years, the standard deluge of questions always includes, “So when do you leave?,” as if the date on which you depart college forever will actually determine the strength of your friendships.

If you reply with an “oh the day after graduation,” the inevitable response will be something along the lines of “noooo whyyy” or “stay longer! pleaaase we don’t want to see you go!” Persuaded by the sincerity and profound sadness in everyone’s texts and pleas, you move your flight back a week.

It’s both the best and worst decision.

You pass your last week not much unlike how you passed the rest of your weeks in college. You want to make an effort to grab last minute coffees and brunches and beers with acquaintances, with people who might be good to know in the future, and with people who meant something at some point but faded into irrelevance over time and the shifting sands of the college current. But of course, you pass your time with a few select friends, sitting on couches and eating.

This is how you imagined saying goodbye would be like:

On your last night, you would sit in a circle with your closest friends, around a light source generating an ambience of sentimentality. It could be a bonfire, it could be a lamp. Let’s make it a bonfire. A couple of 40s are strewn around. Your thesis burns in the middle of the pit. A guitar is being strummed somewhere on the periphery. No, that’s not right. A phone is plugged into a portable speaker, and a white man with a beard and an acoustic guitar croons lyrics about pain and love. 

You each take turns in the circle talking about what you learned over the last four years, the three things you will take away from college, your best and worst memories. Someone takes their phone out to Snapchat the moment. 

You would all decide to take a midnight drive up a mountain to see some grandiose view of the Bay. Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” would play in the background. You all sing along loudly. You all laugh together loudly. You all say things that sound profound, quoting the dead. You’ll say how much you’ll miss each other, how much you’ll miss this. Tears are shed. You bury your head into your friends’ shoulders. The heartache is palpable. 

The next morning, you would all go to the airport together. More tears. More hugs. More sorrowful speeches promising remembrance. The “end of an era,” the gravity of your exit, prompts an emotional outpouring unparalleled in your 21 years of existence. You think to yourself, “so this is how it all ends.”

Here’s how it actually happens:

You dance the night away in a warehouse on the edge of the water. Through the rusted chainlink fence, you admire a view of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. Or, you admire what you can see of the Bay Bridge and the city lights through the Bay Area fog.

That night, you go home, and chomping on strips of gum, you throw your dirty laundry into one suitcase and your books and bedsheets into another. You find yourself unable to cram in a pair of shoes here, a desk lamp there. Shampoo bottles and laundry detergent are thrown out half-used. You realize you purchased far too many trash bags for your last month here. You realize you won’t be able to finish the bacon you bought for your last week of late night drunchies. 

You can’t fit your heavy peacoat into your stuffed bags, so you just wear it, despite the morning heat. You are about to grab your keys off the peg but then remember you’re never going to need those again.

You have two hours until your flight, so you all drive up to the top of a mountain and take in that grandiose view of the Bay. You all sit there. And you don’t say anything. No one says anything, because words can only fail in this moment. Sam Smith plays in the background.

At the airport, everyone is silent. Everything has already been said over the course of four years; what needs to be stated is understood in the reluctant tug of suitcases. You get to the security checkpoint, the barrier forcing the final parting of ways. It’s just you and two best friends. One throws up a peace sign. The other waves.

You give a head nod and say, “Catch ya later, dude.”

And that’s goodbye. 


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