November is nearly over. And my last college final is a few short weeks away. Which means, as of this moment, I only have about a month left in Madison.
I know, I know, I got my fair share of time here, and there’s no use in nostalgia. Everyone told me at the beginning of the semester that senior year goes by quicker than you can stop to catch your breath, and I suppose I believed them, but I never felt their words the way I do now.
I don’t know how to write this post. I really don’t. Oftentimes, when I write blog posts, the words will flow fast and easy. This time is different. Maybe it’s because I really can’t fathom how four years passed so quickly, or because I still can’t really wrap my mind around being a 21-year-old senior in college.
But I think the real reason is because I have no freaking idea how I’m going to say goodbye.
Madison has become a part of me in a way that no other place before it ever did. I’ll always have a soft spot for Minnesota, and I’ll think about my hometown from time to time, but Madison is the home I chose. Madison is where I became a real person. Madison is where I’ve experienced the best and worst moments of my life. And as much as I love it and as much as I’ve carved out a place of belonging here, I know I can’t stay. That might be the hardest part of all.
So as I lay here, wondering how I’m going to leave, I’m also trying to plan for the eventual loss of my second home. I don’t know how to say goodbye, but I’m trying to figure it out.
How to say goodbye to your second home
First, remember that it won’t be easy. You created a lifetime for yourself here in four short years, and that life, even though it may continue in smaller fragments, is about to end. Even though you’re going to embark on new and amazing adventures, that doesn’t mean you won’t look back. Let yourself look back sometimes. Some memories are too good to forget.
Cherish every “last” the way you cherished every “first.” That last trip to College Library might not be as thrilling as your first college party, but it’s part of your experience, and you’ll miss it when it’s gone. Visit your favorite restaurant a lot. Do whatever your parents want to do when they come into town for the last time, even if you have a big paper due that day. I promise you won’t regret it.
Prioritize, but in a way that makes you happy. When you look back, you definitely won’t remember that trivial assignment you spent hours on, especially if your heart wasn’t in it. You’ll remember laughing in line at Ian’s at 1:45 a.m. on a Thursday, though. So when it comes to a choice between the two, choose wisely.
Take a lot of pictures. If the light is shining really beautifully on Humanities, but you don’t want to look stupid taking a picture of one of the ugliest buildings on campus, do it anyway. It’s getting torn down in a few years. Don’t you want to remember getting lost and dripped on by the leaky ceiling?
Leave campus better than it was when you arrived. Contribute something. Anything, really. Whatever makes our place a better one, whatever moves us — and future Badgers — forward. This is one of the only chances you’ll ever have to impact such a broad, diverse, and special community. Don’t be afraid to leave your mark, as long as it’s a good one.
No matter where you live, it’ll always be home. Home isn’t always where you are physically. Sometimes home is what’s shaped you into the person you are today. Home is the warm feeling that spreads through you as you remember that place. You may leave it, but it doesn’t leave you.
When December rolls around, I’ll reread this, and hopefully, I’ll smile. When I’m peering over the ledge of the press box to center ice of the Wells Fargo Center, I’ll remember doing the same thing here at La Bahn. When I’m curled up in my bed watching a crappy live-stream of the Badger basketball game, I’ll remember what it was like to be there. When I’m walking down the streets of Philadelphia, I’ll remember the streets of Madison, and how I always felt so safe. And after that, when I’m God-knows-where in the world, a little piece of me will always be right here in Madison. Right here at home.