To be honest, I am graduating in eight days and I did not think it would be this hard. Two weeks ago, I had gotten comfortable in the outfit of adulthood. But, as I said my first real goodbye today, it hit me that summer is just another season now, not a break before classes begin again.
It happened outside of the schoolhouse, right there on the sidewalk. In an instant the girl who was so sure she was ready to move on became the girl who ugly-cried outside of the president’s house, and it was all that swing’s fault. Of course you know the one. You have heard stories of newfound friends and first dates. You have seen neighborhood family photoshoots and proposals take place right there. And me? I have written letters underneath its tree’s canopy, had middle of the night heart-to-hearts in the middle of its bench and belly-laughed with my best friends while suspended between its two chains.
Today I hoisted myself up on its rain-stained seat and wished I would have believed them when they told me these years would go by in an instant.
I wish I would have held on to all of my Responsible Self books. Even “Confessions.” I wish I had kept all of my notes, careful and measured at Mill, sharing space with doodles and grocery lists by the time we made it to Emecheta. I wish I would have bravely raised my hand, projected my “what ifs.” I wish I would have been okay with being uncertain. I wish even more I would have been okay with being wrong.
I wish I would have learned to pick my battles. To let the small things go.
I wish I would have sat on the floor and done absolutely nothing more. I wish I would have spent more nights on the hill behind Melrose and more early mornings in the “living room” of Browning just being.
I wish I would have stuck with Latin.
I wish I would have captured the mundane, taken snapshots of the run-of-the-mill. My bed before it was made, sheets blanketing the textbook I fell asleep on. The note left outside of my door on the hardest day of my life. Sidewalk chalk half washed off in the rain. Shoelaces trapped in closed dresser drawers. Christmas lights framing Curry Hall. I wish I could recreate the surprise of getting caught in the “Sleigh Ride” snowfall for the first time and keep the candlelight lining the Lighting of the Quad pathway.
I wish I had written down how it felt to peer over the observatory railing for the first time. Cherished the numbness of my toes that time we raced around the building in 10 inches of snow. Had bottled the sunshine from spring days in that ever-perfect grass. Still had the scratches on my arm from rolling down Browning Bowl. I wish I could recreate every game of hide-and-seek played in White Science, every all nighter in the Perch and every midday nap in the PLC. I wish I could relive the breaks spent breathing in mountain air, whiling away the day by the lake, milling around state fairs and science museums.
I wish I had time to run through the fountain on a 40 degree night one more time. To chase down the memory of my first “real college party,” how we only made it 30 minutes before we abandoned it for a Harry Potter marathon and drive-thru Taco Bell. To recall the chants from my first Homecoming. To sit down with every professor & a pot of coffee and ask them how they ended up where they are.
I wish I would have written the gardeners a thank you letter every spring.
I wish I had figured out how to open my mailbox before the second semester of my sophomore year.
I wish I would have asked more questions.
I wish I would have taken you up on that coffee date.
I wish I would have spent less time staring at my screen and more at the Kansas City skyline.
I wish my weekly to do list would have included a long, scalding hot shower just for thinking about the here and now. Would have let the steam cloud the future and feet in the next shower stall distract me from obsessing about post-grad plans.
I would have called my parents just to check in. Thanked them for spotting me for that parking ticket. For putting the dogs on the phone. For good morning texts. For not saying “I told you so.”
I would have saved the money that I spent on clothes I didn’t need and instead would have spent it on more all-night bus rides to Chicago, Sunday morning pancakes at Ginger Sue’s and single tickets to matinee movies.
I wish it was guaranteed that I would be moving to another place where everyone held the door open for each other, nodded hello on the sidewalk and ended every cut-off conversation with an invitation to continue it over coffee later.
I wish every person in the world could take in the magic of a thunderstorm from the steps of Jewell Hall.
I wish my day one had been May 1 and my four years were starting rather than nearing their end. I am swaying back and forth on the schoolhouse swing, frantically dragging my feet in the dirt trying to the slow and stall the end any way I can.
I wish every person could spend four years on this hill with its speed bumps and hammocks and bookless library and walks around the quad and quiet places and coffee lines.
I wish it wasn’t so hard to leave this place.
I wish I would have winged it then instead of wishing now.
I wish the same for you.