I decided to come to Georgetown after hearing a professor at GAAP weekend tell a roomful of anxious type-A high school seniors that at Georgetown they ask students the hard questions. At age 18, I was just precocious and pompous enough to think that that is what a college education should be about, and I’m grateful for the wildly confident and misconstrued notions I had then, because it led me to say yes to Georgetown and yes to endeavoring into the hard questions. The professor was right, they certainly ask you the hard questions at Georgetown, but I thought he had meant solely in the classroom. And yes, I have been asked to think about hard things in class. I’ve grappled with complicated and uncomfortable issues of race, gender, bias, and politics in chalk filled rooms as voices of dissent bounced off the walls. But the hardest questions I’ve been asked were never while sitting at a desk in front of a professor.
They were questions I found in quiet moments and private corners. Late at night amongst blurred edges, and nestled between oblivious and wandering bodies. They were questions of fearsome uncertainty as difficult to answer as to define. How do you move forward? After a death, after a terror attack? How do you handle stress? How do you overcome issues of mental health, both your own and those around you? How do you let yourself be taken care of? I do not have the answers to all of these questions, nor do I think any answer that worked at one time will always be the right one, but the most important thing I learned in college was that it starts with openness and togetherness. With wearing the community you’ve created not as a shield, but a blanket to keep you warm on the coldest of nights.
In reflecting on my college experience and moments where I was asked these hard questions, my entire freshman year comes to mind. Some of the hardships seem laughable now, I’ve certainly dealt with much worse since then, but at the time they felt like the world was falling apart, and in a way it was. The world as I had known and experienced it was shifting. I was outgrowing the smaller softer world I’d comfortably taken shelter in, like a crab molting. Outgrowing your world is a natural phenomenon, but before you realize this, it can feel not like your world is expanding, but rather crumbling. Growth and ruin are easily mistaken.
Freshman year I was embraced by people I barely knew, as I got mono, as my grandfather died, as they caught the Boston Marathon bomber and I could finally breath a sign of relief that my family was no longer in immediate danger. There are countless times I experienced heartbreak, loss, and fear throughout all four years, but the reason that freshman year comes so vividly to mind is that the support I have received everyday since I got here, was still shocking to me then. It had yet to become second nature that I deserved and would always receive this type of unwavering support. And it is this unwavering support that is the beginning of how to answer the hard questions that have been asked of us and that I hope we will continue to ask ourselves everyday outside the confines of these ivy covered walls. My biggest and best realization came senior year when I finally and fully recognized how very little I truly know, and how very truly what I do know and what I have accomplished have been in large part due to the countless people who have helped, held up, and supported me along this journey.
Now, these beacons of support will no longer be a stones throw away. Georgetown is telling us to leave and even though it is time, it’s breaking my heart. Because I don’t know how to not live a 10-minute walk from all my friends. I don’t know how to push myself without the pressure of teachers asking more of me than I ever thought I could give. I have felt so incredibly safe here. Not as if the world can’t touch me, college is not a place where death, and destruction, and ruin do not touch. If anything, they’re felt more intensely here in this charged, hormonal, politically active environment, but there is something about the community and togetherness that makes the world seem a little less scary. Because when you get the call that you don’t want to get, there is this incredible web of people at your disposal who will drop everything and just hold you. I know the friends we have made here won’t go away, but this ineffable web of love, lust, awkwardness, discomfort, hate, community, and collective being, will start to dissipate when not confined by these gray stone walls.
Marina Keegan wrote that we don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness but if we did it would be college. And my heart breaks when thinking about crossing that graduation stage, hung-over, tired, excited, scared, deeply deeply in love with each other and a time and place rapidly slipping through our fingers, and confused. Confused that the circles we have pulled around ourselves these last years – our clubs, our classmates, our teammates, our housemates – are being released into the world. Confused that we won’t wake up Sunday morning tucked safely in our beds eager to discuss the night before with our roommates or trudge to Booeys in our pajamas. That disorientation scares me shitless since our compasses have pointed towards Healy for the past four years and now we have to discover our new North.
So Georgetown, who has given me so much and asked of me so much, let’s find the answer one last time. These past four years were never about the parties or the tests or the prestige, but about what happened after. When the lights turned off and we kept talking. When we didn’t want to leave because we couldn’t imagine a moment better than just laughing with our friends over the same stories we know better than whatever we majored in. Georgetown taught me how to love both myself and others deeply, wholeheartedly, and dangerously. It was not always a perfect love affair. Georgetown demanded I find comfort in the uncomfortable and light amongst a lot of darkness. There was despair, and hurt, and that imperfection was just as important as the blissful moments.
Now Georgetown is asking us the hardest question of all: how do we leave home? Class of 2016, here’s to finding out. Georgetown equipped us with the tools to answer any question by giving us each other. We can make a home out of anything. Let’s get building.