How do you say goodbye to a column that you’ve been writing for two years? How do you wrap it up, sum it up, just like that, when there is still so much more left to say, to reflect on, to think about?
How do you say goodbye to a school that is full of so many emotions and memories and feelings and thoughts, the good times, the hard times, the tears and the laughter, the dinners with friends, the nights studying in Van Pelt, the subway rides on the Market-Frankford line, the runs along the Schuylkill, the assignments submitted last minute to Canvas, the times where you should have done work but you talked and laughed and drank coffee with friends instead? How do you say goodbye to a skyline seen out of your window at night, the crawl of people over the Locust Walk bridge, the smell of the food trucks along Spruce, the buildings across campus where you’ve taken tests, hung out with friends, talked with professors, laughed, cried, kissed, smiled? How do you say goodbye to a place that was your home for a temporary amount of time, a place that you alternately love and hate, a place simultaneously so special and so difficult to live in?
On Monday, I turned in my senior thesis two minutes before midnight and I looked out the window of my apartment at the Philadelphia skyline, at the AMC building they started constructing my freshman year and which is now completed, at Locust Walk which I must have walked and run along thousands of times at all hours of the day, at the flag on the roof of Fisher Bennett where I’ve spent the past three years reading and writing and studying English. I thought about all of my memories that will forever be attached to this place and the people I met here. I thought about the impossibility of summing up the combination of emotions I was feeling, and I thought about the strangeness of leaving.
When I came to Penn, nothing was familiar to me. I didn’t know anybody here. I had only been to Philadelphia once in my life for two hours. I had no idea what college would be like. And three years later, I’m thinking about how Philadelphia — and Penn — this city, this school, will always mean something to me, will always hold a unique place in my heart.
Why? Because I spent three years of my life here. I spent three years growing up here. I spent three years meeting people from all across the world, I spent three years discussing a global range of topics, in this one particular corner of the world. We all did. And that’s not something to take lightly. We all have this particular corner of the world in common. We will all imaginatively come back to the same place when we think about our college experiences, friends, memories — even as we continue to grow up in different places, following different career paths, meeting different people, dreaming of different things.
I chose to call my column “Growing Pains” because I am fascinated by the way in which we are always growing up. We are continually thrust into experiences that we’ve never experienced before. We are continually feeling combinations of emotions we’ve never felt before. We are continually experiencing new firsts. We are continually beginning and ending, arriving and leaving. And I believe that it is absolutely essential to reflect on, talk about, and write about these experiences, because these experiences are fundamental to not only our own self-understanding, but also to our understanding of others and the world around us.
By far the most frequent response I have gotten to my articles over the years is “Thank you so much for articulating what so many people feel but what nobody actually talks about.” And although I do not presume to speak for others’ experiences when I speak about my own, I firmly believe that the things which everyone feels but which no one talks about are precisely the things that need to be said, precisely the things that need to be written about. Opinion articles should not just be about politics or economics. They should also be about the everyday: what we feel, what we think, what we observe, what we learn. Because ultimately, the everyday is how we grow up.
It has been one of the biggest privileges of my Penn experience to grow up with and along all of you through my column. And so perhaps instead of saying goodbye, I will just say thank you. Thank you for reading, for emailing, for messaging, for reaching out to get coffee. Because when you say that I have made you feel less alone in your experiences, you have also made me feel less alone in mine.
EMILY HOEVEN is a College senior from Fremont, Calif., studying English. She served as an opinion columnist from the fall of 2015 to the spring of 2017.
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