Looking back: How did I get here?
Web Manager Emeritus
I like words. And more than that, I like using them. Ask anybody who knows me. They’ll tell you I’m a talker. I’m most grateful for learning how to better use my words and my voice during my time at The University. For what just might be the first time ever, though, I don’t have words for how I feel. There are few that could sum up my four years at The University in a way that would do them any justice.
Here’s a cool word: emeritus. I added that to our titles Tuesday. It was a powerful moment — to produce written proof of something I have known was coming for a long time. Certainly there were other reminders before this: running out of flex for the final time, picking up my cap and gown. But because it is written, the word emeritus was the most poignant reminder of what happens in just 23 days.
I can so vividly remember copy editing the reflections of the senior Aquinas staff members who have come before me.
The fact that I’m writing one now is surreal.
Reflecting on my four years at The University was a vaguely cinematic experience. I actually made popcorn before I sat down to go through pictures on my computer. I watched a younger, more naïve version of myself pack up my pink and green bedroom in New Jersey and move into Lavis Hall. This version of myself felt like a different person, whom I sometimes relate to Rachel in the first season of “Friends.” You know, when she comes running into the coffee shop in her wedding dress? In that first season, she has to build a new, independent life, which is what I have largely done here at The University. Looking back on my experience is like watching someone else.
I watched her get on a bus with 40 strangers to spend six days doing service with them on the FIRST retreat. I watched several of these strangers become friends, then family.
Then I watched her become a copy editor for The Aquinas. Previously, I remember looking up to the editorial staff and thinking that could never be me. I never thought that I could run a website; I never thought I could help publish a newspaper. Never did I think I would actually graduate.
I also watched her spend a semester in London. One thing that I experienced while traveling was a fear of forgetting. I would visit a new city and panic, trying to remember it all. I feel similarly now. I want to cling to everything: the late nights in The Aquinas office, the nights out with friends and dragged-out meals in DeNaples.
Through all of this I was overcome with gratitude. For the friends who became family. For the professors in whose offices I have both laughed and cried. For all of the staff here whose smiles always brighten dark days. For The Aquinas staff, past and present, who have both made me a better writer and have made me laugh when I needed to most.
I was also filled with pride. Proud that I, like Rachel, forged my own life, away from my parents. Proud of my friends who have supported and inspired me through good times and bad, as I have watched them prepare for medical school and law school; to move to Milwaukee and Mongolia.
It is with confidence that I pass on my torch, pride that I add “Emeritus” to our titles and nostalgia that I submit this, my last article in The Aquinas, ever.
I’ve heard a lot of people saying lately that they want to stop. To hit pause, stay here forever. And I can understand why. Why should we leave all of our friends, our cozy apartments or off-campus houses, DeNaples, Oscar’s, Cockeyed’s? Maybe our college years have to end for the same reason “Friends” did, because bigger and better things are coming.
Looking at present: The tension of the now
As my time at The University draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about what it means to appreciate the present moment. The language we usually use to talk about this is tired — living life to the fullest, one day at a time, in the moment. But that’s not instructive, inspiring or even especially illustrative. I get the feeling that there is something more to consider, but I’m not sure what it is.
I had a sense of what it might mean when I ran a marathon a few weeks ago. While preparing, I never thought race day, or the series of lasts it kicked off, would actually come. The marathon itself was probably the last time I will ever run a race with my best friend, who has been a classmate, teammate and sister to me since my first day of college.
While I was running, I was focused on mile one, then mile two, then mile three … rather than anything past or future. The present moment was enough, as it almost always is when we really look, to absorb every part of my body and my mind. Of course we cannot always live like this; however, I wonder whether there is some way we can live now and then, knowingly reflecting on the past or future with the present moment as a context or frame of reference.
For a long time, the race was in the distant future, as was graduation, the act of leaving school and friends behind, the final issue of The Aquinas, etc. I was looking ahead, thinking about the future. And there will be a time soon to reflect on the past and how far we’ve come. But it is equally important to reflect on the present moment.
The tension between past and future is something we always feel, but it is especially prevalent right now for graduating seniors. Rather than focusing on one pole or the other, I think we need to stop and truly experience the tension and the present moment it creates. To realize that this perspective on the future — characterized by more fear and hope than we’ve ever felt before — is unique to our situation right now, as is our perspective on our lives thus far, seems important. Never again will we be filled with so much anxious energy and so many memories all at once. Let’s allow ourselves to be overwhelmed for a minute, embrace the tension and appreciate right now for what it is.
Looking around: Saying goodbye, and welcoming the spring
Forum Editor Emeritus
The spring season is my favorite time in Scranton. This year, we didn’t really have a spring at all. Late April snow gave way to heat this week that’s not unbearable, but has a summer weight, especially as night creeps in.
Sadly, I won’t see another Scranton spring for what seems like a very long time. So rather than feel renewed by the lightness of spring air, I’ve taken as a rejuvenation the company of all those people at The University with whom I will never be totally reunited in my life. The relatively new but virile relationships we’ve all formed here may not be reformed for a long time; they may lie dormant for a period.
As I look around, I see my peers and me hurting, because we seem to have just put roots down. And in three weeks, we’ll be moving on. Right now, though, I see the springtime of our lives beginning. We were never meant to take root here, as much as we love it. The University has prepared us to begin to grow in other places, in other parts of the country and the world. Our time at The University has concluded the first quarter of our lives.
So when I look around now, I see an institution that still needs a lot of improvement; I see men and women with a lot of room left to grow. I see people beginning, or refusing to begin, to say goodbye.
We have three weeks. Let’s acknowledge that the first season of our lives is over. Let’s acknowledge that the springtime of our lives — families, jobs, service, contribution to the world — is about to begin. Let’s respect this milestone by saying goodbye well. Bury hatchets, but more importantly, talk to those you’re not especially close to; talk to those you’ve met only recently. Tell them what they mean to you. We needn’t go out with a bang, but neither should we whimper away the remaining few weeks.
I look around and see all those who deserve a real goodbye. Let’s give each other that.
Looking forward: Where are we going?
Chief Copy Editor Emeritus
The end is nigh. Seniors, we’re T-minus 23 days until graduation. And it seems that a lot of people are still in denial that May 31 is even happening. Why is it that whenever we see signs of the future, we, like Squidward, curl up in the fetal position and moan “FUTURE” in the hope that it will simply go away?
Personally, I blame the many, many people who told me to enjoy college because “it’s the best four years of your life!” Which means that even as an underclassman, I finished a year and thought, “Well, another one bit the dust.” And by this logic, the only way we can go is down. That’s right: at the ripe old age of 22, the best years of my life are behind me. Before me is only a miserable existence in which I will eke out a small salary in a dank cubicle and spend late nights poring over bills and tax forms. Now that the education system’s conveyor belt is nearly at its end, we’ll be spit out into a black void, bereft of our friends and DeNaples cookies, with only our childhood bedrooms and student loans for company.
It is a wonderful privilege to be a student on this campus. And there will be a lot to miss. We’ve settled in here, and now the familiar, comforting patterns of our lives will have to change. I’ll lose my seat at The Aquinas’ copy editor table, where I’ve waded through appalling grammatical errors and a sea of red ink since my first semester here. I won’t get to chat with Montrone’s marvelous maintenance staff or watch the sun set over the mountains on a regular basis. My period of self-exploration as an undergrad is nearly over.
The transition won’t be easy, but that’s okay. Author Azar Nafisi wrote, “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” Even when we return for a visit, we won’t be students anymore. I will absolutely miss being the undergraduate Maria and having this life here, and that’s fine. I’m grateful that my time in Scranton has been so wonderful that it hurts to leave. It isn’t bad to experience sadness, and we shouldn’t hide in denial and try to avoid it. We can and should acknowledge the gifts of our Scranton experience and celebrate our accomplishments, but it’s also okay to mourn the end of our life here.
We have a lot to miss, but that doesn’t mean that the world ahead of us will be, as Thomas Hobbes wrote, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Adults leave school and go on to live fulfilling, exciting lives. As hard as it may be to see right now, life goes on after our time at “da U” is over.
As my dad told me earlier this year, most college students are mildly terrified at the prospect of graduation and their entry into the “real world,” even if they try to hide it. Some of us might hide it better than others. Some of us are going to grad school. Some have jobs. Some of us don’t even have that much. But wherever we’ll be after May 31, all of us have a major transition ahead of us as our undergraduate careers come to a close. All of us will be navigating postgraduate life, which will hold a number of unknown challenges and possibilities for us. But all of us will be facing this together, and we can support one another, even if it’s long-distance support. And even if real adulthood turns out to be as wretched as we’re told, we’ve enjoyed four brilliant, vibrant, years in Scranton together.
Chief Copy Editor Emeritus
As a graduating senior, I can say with absolute certainty that the future is the scariest thing I have ever had to face. The five of us — myself, Brigid, Laura, Maria and Ben — have all written pieces expressing our memories and feelings. I want to focus on my hopes for The Aquinas not only because talking about my own future terrifies me, but also because no one has more dreams for this paper or for the people who make it than we do.
In my three years working as a copy editor, I have come to love this paper and the people who work to create it each week. We have worked to make it more relevant to the student body not just in discussing world events, but in celebrating the people and organizations that make this school great. It is my hope that The Aquinas will continue to grow in this direction, interacting with students and using the information gleaned to celebrate what makes us special.
We are a school of overachievers and volunteers, of men and women for others, of people bent on changing this world for the better, one cause and one person at a time. The Aquinas, I hope, will continue to report on these qualities that make us great.
More than that, though, I hope that The Aquinas continues to be a newspaper with a purpose. In my three years here, we have tackled contentious issues about this school and the world at large. We have danced around inflammatory language and ambiguous satire, all while working to make sure that only the truth and facts are printed. It is a long and twisted road, one that I pray editors here will continue to travel in our absence. We admit that we are only students, but that should not stop us from taking journalism seriously.
This is no ordinary club. The Aquinas is a newspaper and an extracurricular activity that requires dedication and perseverance. it requires patience and a sense of duty; it involves devoting your entire birthday to production night not only willingly, but happily. I know that the editors for next year feel the same passion that I do, and I only hope that incoming editors and writers for years to come feel the same way. That is ultimately my hope for this paper: that those who devote so much time to it continue to love it the same way that I do, and that they make the friends and enjoy the experiences that I will miss more than anything after graduation.