Tuscaloosa was my life’s landscape for the past four years—where I have littered the streets with my achievements, disappointments, anxieties, joys and probably a few too many discarded red cups.
Reflecting on all of it—all of the impossibly high “highs” and devastatingly low “lows”—it seems to me that this was all a lovely, little microcosm of life itself.
It’s easy to romanticize something as you come face to face with its conclusion. It’s easy to forget that for every night I romped home from downtown with friends, there was a night I walked home alone, dejected and frustrated. It’s easy to swell with pride over all we’ve accomplished and turn our backs on all of our shortcomings.
But leaving? Leaving is hard.
It’s important to resist the temptation to whitewash our college experiences in a wistful attempt at appreciating them. I think, instead, we should try to reconcile the triumphs with the hard times, and swallow it whole—because the times we felt we had “found” ourselves were tempered by the times we felt more lost than we knew possible. We must accept both.
In the last week or so, I’ve walked around campus with an intensified tendency to sacralize this beautiful place. I’m thankful I’ve always felt this way about my school, but this week, it’s different. I can practically see a ghost of my 17-year-old self traipsing around with her Bama Bound drawstring bag, admiring the buildings I’ve now spent countless hours inside. I am so excited for that girl—she has no idea how the next four years will shape her into someone she’s proud of.
I came to The University of Alabama as a polo-clad, Sperry-sporting caricature of what I perceived Southern culture to be—swapping out my most abrasive “you guys's” for “y’all’s” and a fundamental misunderstanding of the appropriate T-shirt size. My priorities were warped (at best) and I blew through about $700 in my first two weeks, prompting a stern and panicked budget discussion from my (incredibly) understanding parents.
Every time I start to feel overwhelmed at the seeming magnitude of this transition, I have to remind myself: College was great. Truly, it was. But it was not the best. It will not be the best life has to offer. College has prepared us for what lies ahead in a way that nothing else could have—therein lies its true beauty.
We joke that we wish we could stay here forever, but deep down, we know we never could. This place has given us what we needed: confidence, humility, fun, heartbreak, boundaries, freedom (and one unforgettable National Championship win). And now it is done with us, and we must enter the world a little wiser, a little stronger and a little more grateful than we were before.
Roll tide forever,