Looking Back With Joy: A Senior Retrospective
Well, well, well … If it isn’t the course of time passing exactly as expected.
Maybe this is just because I’ve been packing my apartment into boxes for the past two days, but does there seem to be an extra pressure lately to compartmentalize our lives away? It feels like an unspoken countdown began within the last month, urging us to make sense of four years of memories, sort them away, and label them for convenient access later on. I guess it could have been the whole “100 Nights” thing, but - either way, an emotional U-Haul has been parked outside of my door for weeks now.
And I’m still not packed.
Truth be told, the process of leaving college has felt much less to me like a steady moving-out as it has like waking up in a house-fire and scrambling to grab your most prized possessions.
Luckily, though, the past few weeks have at least been a time of taking inventory. Of drunken affirmations in the Blend, disposable cameras, and farewell notes. And, though we’ve likely taken multiple tries to write (or slur) the proper words of gratitude to our closer friends, there’s probably come a point for all of us in which we’ve accepted we might never find them. Nevertheless, we’ve kept trying.
In my own efforts to collect my thoughts within this treacly haze of consciousness, I’ve found myself frequenting to the campus fountain. Yes, that one. The, “Always the Instagram story, but never the Instagram,” less-hot-but-nice little sister of Keating.
Over the years, the fountain has become a bit of a sacred space to me, saved more for intentional pauses than between-class cut-throughs. This began some time in the fall of my freshman year, after learning from a classmate of the quotation that circles its base. Etched in Latin and then English from the Roman poet Virgil, the subtle inscription reads:
“Perhaps, someday we will look back upon these things with joy.”
Just on the brink of my college career, I remember having felt a strange wave of premature nostalgia as these words hit me. It was one of those moments in a coming-of-age novel that makes you go, “Oh, now I understand the title.”
Of course, I still had many more chapters before I’d even begin to “come-of-age,” let alone comprehend the motif that the fountain would signify in my story.
I finally began to understand, though, during the fall of my junior year. Having delegated the fountain as a meeting place to catch up with my close friend Mike Turzilli before improv practice one October night, the fountain soon stood as one of the final places I’d see Mike before he passed unexpectedly later that month.
In the weeks and months following his death, I would return to the fountain almost daily. I remember finding solace, especially, within the hidden nature of the quotation itself - realizing the covert beauty of our friendship as it was. Our conversation while sitting by the fountain that night was mundane, a simple point of intersected coexistence - but it was joyful.
As I look back upon these four years, it’s these moments of joy discovered through retrospect that seem to mean the most.
After all, there’s a reason we don’t notice how nice a walk around campus is until we’ve moved off. It’s the same reason we never realize that the cherry blossoms have bloomed until their petals are raining across campus, and why we seem to meet some of the best people second semester senior year.
I knew I’d someday find warmth in scrolling back to my photos from senior sunrise as I snapped them, but can’t say I immediately found the humor in waking up an hour after graduation had begun. And, still, I haven’t, really, but - well, it’s barely been a week.
Many of our greatest joys in life seem to only gain their beauty once viewed in retrospect - and I’d like to think it’s not just because of the fabrication we often attribute to nostalgia. There’s truth to the clarity and growth that distance brings unto the past; the objectivity of looking back on the path we’ve travelled after spending months eyeing each next step.
One of my favorite things about the fountain is that it’s a bit architecturally unsound; even the slightest gust of wind can blow its stream off-course, forming a puddle on the ground around it. I like to think of it as a reminder that we can never catch it all. That, as much as we might try to collect and soak it all in, life will always get in the way of things.
But, as we look back on all we’ve been able to catch along the way, I hope it’s filled your base enough to keep you running. That you’ve found joy - maybe not through justification, or closure, or even clarity - but simply through the process of it all.
I know I will still be discovering joy in the incredible friends, memories, and lessons I’ve collected at Fordham long after the fountain is in walking distance. That’s probably why each piece of my apartment has sent me into an episode of reminiscing before being able to pack it away. Even now, surrounded by packed boxes scattered around my bedroom floor, I know there are so many more things I’ve collected in my time here that I’ve yet to get to.
So, for now, I’ll bring them with me. And, perhaps, someday, I’ll look back upon these things with joy.