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Credit: Tyler Kliem , Derek Wong

There is a Phoebe Bridgers song called “I Know The End” — while the song can be said to be about leaving places and people you love and accepting that everything comes to an end, the title remains an enigma for me. How can we know anything about the end? If at all, we as a society have learned the exact opposite, that tomorrow is elusive and that the end is anything but clear. I speak from experience when I say this, because my time at the University of Pennsylvania has embodied the paradoxical serendipity of not knowing anything for sure.

I didn’t start my college journey here at Penn. My journey actually began at Boston College, and I transferred here for my sophomore year. Transferring is not easy, and I was met with the apprehension of “Did I make the right choice?” more than one time. Who can ever be sure of such an important decision? But I quickly learned that my home was always intended to be here at Penn and in the College, fated to meet the incredible people I have, participate in the extracurriculars that shaped who I now am, and take the classes within my philosophy, politics and economics major that have fundamentally set me on a lifelong trajectory of fighting for digital rights. And just as much as my major has defined me, so has the myriad of extracurriculars I have been involved in. From being the 539th moderator of the Philomathean Society, co-president of the Collegium Institute, and an opinion columnist for the DP (among many other activities, some of which I had to learn to let go of), I have found purpose. There is something so innately “Penn” about these experiences and that is perhaps why, to me, this institution is so special: It provides untold opportunity through choice and genuinely lives up to the phrase on the wrought iron gate near Houston Hall that reads in Latin: “Find a way or make one.” I did not know where or how my undergraduate career would end, but I am proud it is with the Class of 2022, who has persevered through a college journey highlighted by unpredictability.

And I would be remiss if I did not address the pandemic that has touched so many of our lives in a column about knowing the end. Besides the pain and anxiety that the pandemic brought us, it also brought us uncertainty. All I could think of was when would it end, when could we go back to seeing each other’s faces, and when could we come back to Penn to have the educational experience I very much missed. Regardless of what we did, we did not know what the future would hold or when that end would be. That was, understandably, unsettling. Yet together as a community, we pushed on, despite awkward eye contact at the testing tents and executing the complex water bottle drinking maneuver while wearing a mask. At Penn, I strongly believe I have since become better acquainted with the ephemerality of life, less fixated on what the end will look like, and have learned to embrace whatever “known knowns” I could ascertain throughout my time here.

There is one thing Bridgers gets right, though. In one of the last lines of the song she declares, “The billboard says, ‘The end is near.‘” This end, my time at Penn as an undergraduate, is certainly near. And while I may know “this end,” I will revel in the many “known unknowns” that await both myself and my peers; the jobs we are about to have, the adventures we will be embarking on, the graduate education we intend to receive, and the new people in new cities we will eventually meet. In the loosely paraphrased words of Roman philosopher Seneca, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” The zeitgeist of our generation will be defined by being comfortable with not knowing the end, and that’s okay. I have the experiences I made at Penn, full of incredible relationships and lessons, and frankly, that is better than knowing any end with certainty.

JOSEPH M. SQUILLARO is a College senior studying philosophy, politics and economics from East Setauket, N.Y. His email is