In my junior year of high school, one of my most distinct memories was speaking to an older friend who had graduated. I was taking the same English class with the same teacher that she had taken years prior, and my friend was explaining to me the most lasting lesson she had learned from that class.
“Stories only come in a handful of iterations. Every story that exists today is just a retelling of previous stories with different details and characters,” she said. “All of your stories will have a beginning, end, and some kind of plot, but the way you give your story power is through the details and thoughtfulness unique to you.”
The concept my friend described was never taught to me in the class, which I always thought was illustrative of that lesson. Despite the differences in our experiences, her words have stayed with me through the years.
I’m sure the story that’s unfolding around us now is not the story many of us wanted or imagined. It may not be the story we thought we’d be telling at our reunions or recounting to our families. But as trite as it sounds, this story has a beginning, and it will have an ending. Whether we like that ending or not, we are the ones completely in control of the way we remember this story.
For some of us, it seems like the story is already coming to an end. There are some classmates, professors, and friends we might never see again, people we may never say goodbye to.
It’s tough for me to imagine what Penn will be like without having closure with the seniors who have defined this place, and I can’t imagine how those seniors are feeling now. But while we grieve our missed farewells, I also hope we take this opportunity to reflect on the ways we’ve grown and to celebrate the memories we’ve made.
When I remember my best moments at Penn, the endings mean little to me. I don’t remember the bus ride back to campus after a hiking trip filled with muddy shoes and new friendships. I don’t remember walking home after the countless DP productions that carried into the wee hours of the night. I don’t remember leaving the kitchen table after my parents acknowledged my sexuality for the first time, years of denial later.
Maybe this lack of goodbyes can bring more into focus what has made our stories worth telling.
To my tireless staff at the DP: Thank you for everything – you all inspire me every day. I cannot wait to see everyone again in the fall.
To the seniors who came before me: Thank you for making Penn a place I can call home. It won’t be the same without you.
And to our readers: Thank you for your continued support and challenges. We’ve been through a lot together, and that won’t stop now.
Right now, this period may seem like a difficult, uncertain time. But looking back at the past three years, I know we have the power to decide how these moments will become meaningful.
BEN ZHAO is a Wharton junior from Northbrook, Ill. studying finance. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the executive editor of the 136th Board of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc.