Dispatches at The Prospect are brief reflections from our writers that focus on their experiences during the summer.
You’re turning the tassels and scavenging for your cap, the essence of what lies ahead — lost within the pile of your peers’ vessels of their journeys — after you’ve catapulted it skyward. Many are headed to college, enthusiastic about escaping 7 AMs and their parents’ incessant hounding. Others have veered from the academic path, joining the workforce or military.
It registers that this is your last shared space with your graduating class. You realize you’ve missed the opportunity to befriend the person to your left. Or your right. In hindsight, the $3 Americano with complimentary eraser crumbs, the lunchroom’s attempt at Asian fusion, and even the “workouts” in gym class possess a charm.
The cadence of the closing march interrupts your reverie. You’re showered with carnations and the embrace of everyone you’ve ever considered home. Your family envelopes these culminating memories of you and your friends through photographs. As alumni, these are now the only remnants we’ll have to reminisce. You shout a reflexive yet reserved “goodbye” because there’s no lunch tomorrow for your daily debrief. No one’s told you that this moment you’ve been anticipating for 12 years entailed as much heartache as fulfillment.
In the liminal post-graduation days, your body wrestles with school routines. Gradually, the summer swelter replaces alarms. Your early weeks are filled with spontaneous hometown hangouts and nostalgia for a friend 6,000 miles away. Better yet, you are that friend. You experience authentic fusion (not the cafeteria sort), and the belly laughter echoing throughout Main Street is more legitimate than any HITT exercise you’ve forcefully done in high school.
You hope to linger in what it means to be a teenager without pondering collegiate responsibilities or whatever tinge of adulthood that entails. Contemplation leads to restlessness. So you put it on the backburner, like you did when procrastinating assignments just weeks ago. The summer allure is too persuasive. You bask in the sun and bury each other in the sand. You’re snacking on the charcuterie board that you assembled. You’ll burn those calories off anyway while swimming against the ocean current. The boys are in an intense round of pickleball while you and your girls are off to the side listening to “August” on loop and reading “Atomic Habits.”
Just when you’re about to ruminate over your withdrawal from engaging in productivity culture, you receive an email welcoming you to the University. It’s finally happening!
It’s finally happening … It's the 23rd, and your move is imminent. Your best friend was the first to leave. It’ll be months before you see them again. Corrugated boxes and carry-ons become your bedroom’s aesthetic. You note all your “lasts” before move-in — even the minute ones. Your last city outing. Your last walk down familiar alleyways. Your last lunch with a mentor.
Roommate assignments, RCA/PAA emails, and orientation details anchor your new reality. Each class you drag to your queue feels defining. Do you still want to study Politics? Or have you diverted your focus to SPIA? The prospect of ORFE is tantalizing, but the consideration of MAE beckons. Upperclassmen advise exploration during your first semester, which provides solace yet uncertainty. You’re attending the most prestigious university in the United States, and that’s enough testament to your merit … until you realize there’s calibers of students within the school itself. Now, you wish that you somehow had it all figured out.
On the contrary, the inaugural ice cream soiree and small group experiences kindle excitement, causing your dilemmas to temporarily subside. You’ve come to embrace the duality of fervor and apprehension. You’re intimidated yet eager because you’re moments away from meeting your new best friend and discovering your new go-to comfort restaurant and study spot. So to the Class of 27, soak it all in. It’s at this moment that you know you’re as prepared as you can possibly be for what’s soon to unfold.
Katherine Lee is an incoming freshman and a contributor for The Prospect. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Self essays at The Prospect give our writers and guest contributors the opportunity to share their perspectives. This essay reflects the views and lived experiences of the author. If you would like to submit a Self essay, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.