How to Say Goodbye to Your Second Home

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.

Tomorrow is my last Badger football game in the student section. I'll be the one sobbing "Varsity" at the end of Fifth Quarter.

Tomorrow is my last Badger football game in the student section. I’ll be the one sobbing “Varsity” at the end of Fifth Quarter.

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.

Postgrad Panic: How to Keep Your Sanity in Your Last Year of College

4608963722_7c88e503f8_bWell, here you are. You made it. You struggled and worked through three years of classes—some great, some that tested your patience, some that affirmed that this is what you’re supposed to be doing—and now it’s almost over. You’re a senior in college!

And even though that’s supposed to make you feel wonderful and smart and prepared to enter the real world, it doesn’t. Instead, when you think about what you’ll be doing this time next year, you start to break into a cold sweat and one of your eyes inevitably starts twitching.

The thing is, until now, this moment felt far away. You reassured yourself that you’d have your life all figured out at this point, that you’d be ready to leave college behind. But now everyone around you seems to be securing full-time jobs, and you feel like you’re on the outside looking in.

Scary, huh?

It’s hard to push aside the panic that comes with senior year. You have to worry about everything you never had to think about before: starting your career, paying all your bills, maybe moving to an unfamiliar city or away from your family. It’s no wonder we can’t relax and enjoy the ride, even though we know we’re nearing the end.

As someone who spends half their time worrying—and the other half worrying about worrying—I get it. I’ve been there, and there’s no doubt I’ll be there again in a matter of days. But there are things I do or tell myself to help me calm down, and maybe they’ll help you, too.

This is what you need to remember when you hit a fit of postgrad panic:

  1. No one has it all figured out. Sure, it may look that way on social media, but don’t you put up that front on Facebook, too? Even if someone has their postgrad plans set in stone, I guarantee they’re still worried about something. We’re all about to enter this big, scary new phase in our lives. It’s natural and totally okay to be a little freaked out.
  2. You don’t have to secure your dream job on your first try. I know it can be tempting to shoot for the moon, and I know how discouraging it is to get rejected. Your worth is not the equivalent of how fantastic your first job out of college is. Say that to yourself. Then say it again. Repeat it until you believe it.
  3. Networking is important, but don’t let it make you anxious. Start small and easy. Get in touch with your old bosses and coworkers, and try to make connections with people they know. Connect to your college’s alums. Use LinkedIn; it’s an amazing resource. Networking doesn’t have to be scary. Think of it as striking up a conversation. There is no harm in sending someone a friendly note once in a while, and you’re not weird for doing it.
  4. Don’t let anyone discourage you from trying. Maybe the position requires a certain number of years’ experience you don’t have, or skills you haven’t quite mastered. So what? You might have the talent to make up for the experience gap, and you can always learn new things. In the words of Coldplay, “If you never try, you never know.” And in the words of Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
  5. It will all work out. If you’re anything like me, I bet you’re yelling “NO, IT WON’T!” at your computer screen right now. But please, just trust me on this one. You have worked too hard for too long to not believe in yourself. And if there was ever a time for you to carry yourself with confidence and a can-do-it attitude, it’s now. So own what makes you special. Play up your strengths. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it—I know you can, and I hope you know that you can, too.

So the next time you find yourself hyperventilating, wondering how the hell you’re going to figure it all out, take a deep breath and remind yourself that everyone’s been here before. Now, it’s our turn.