Closing Time…

This song has been in my head recently. So many perfect lines: Time for you to go out into the world. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here. It seems somehow all too fitting for the end of college. (I won’t even get into “It’s the End of the World As We Know It“, which is also true).

So it’s been quite the few weeks since I last wrote. I’m sorry for my absence, but maybe after reading, you’ll choose to forgive me. Here are some of the highlights that I can remember right now:

  • -The Librarian of the College cleaned my clock in our all-school skeeball tournament. (Well, she scored a 300 and I got a 250).
  • I turned in my thesis on April 20. It finished at 33,000 words and 114 pages.

The finished product!

This was the largest reason that I wasn’t capable of doing anything else. It was a huge project and I’m very proud of how it turned out, but sometimes it felt as physically exhausting as the runs I did to take a break from writing!

  • During one of those frantic I-need-a-break-from-writing runs, I completed my fastest loop of campus (1.7 miles in 13:50 for a sub-8:00 mile pace).
  • I attended my last college class (math, fittingly enough) and handed in my last college assignment (a political science paper, of course).
  • My friends and I rang Founders’ Bell, a senior tradition.

You use a mallet, apparently--this was a surprise to me!

  • And yesterday, I competed in a four-hour Philadelphia scavenger hunt, coming in third!

"Take a picture with a complete stranger outside the Convention Center"

Somehow I managed to continue with everyday life (job applications and interviews, tours and other work in admission, homework besides thesis, making it to the gym every day…) but as I look back I’m not 100% sure where the time went.

Actually, take that sentence, and multiply it by four, and that’s how I feel about my college career. This is one of my last days at school, and I’m trying to think back on four years, and it’s very hard. The best analogy I’ve got is this: If you’ve ever embarked on a weight lifting program, you’ll know that you have to start small. Maybe you’re only benching 30 pounds when you start. But sure enough, you can move to 40, then 50, then 60. But each time you bump up, you know it because you’re using larger weights and you’re sore the next day!

Somehow, through college, I’ve become someone capable of benching a lot, but it sort of snuck up on me! Each paper you write, each guest speaker you hear, each article you dissect, you become a better student, better thinker, better scholar…but you don’t notice until you step back and look at the whole picture. In more ways than I can count, I’ve gained SO much from these four years. It’s not just about academics, though that was undeniably the center of my experience. It’s about all those corny things too: self-understanding and self-awareness and personal growth and transformation and blah blah blah. (I’m not usually good at the sentimental, so this was actually a pretty good paragraph for me).

There are so many posts I wanted to write and never did. There will be so much I’ll want to say that I can’t. There was much I wanted to do but couldn’t. But, in the end, I can’t, rationally, have any regrets: I got so much out of my Haverford years and I’ll always be grateful for my time here. I don’t know how I’ll cope with leaving, but everyone seems to manage, so I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

My friends and I were talking recently about what we might like to say, given the chance, to sum up our Haverford experience. I’ve attached my thoughts at the end of this post because I feel strongly about what I said there.

I did want to close by saying that one way in which I’d like to stay connected to the Haverford community is by always being a resource for anyone considering the college. Please feel free to reach out anytime that you discover this blog (hi future readers!). You can reach me at h.solomonstrauss (at) gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you, no matter the content of your email! (I really truly mean that, more seriously than I’ll be able to convince you, so just shoot me a note and see for yourself!)

Thanks for reading this year! And thanks, Haverford, for everything.

My final thoughts:

When we graduated high school, we probably all heard the same advice. ‘College will be the most important years of your life. You’re not a kid anymore. It’s time to get serious, because this time, it’s the real world.’ Clearly, those speakers didn’t know we were headed to Haverford. So before we take the next step, maybe we should think for a moment about the world we’re leaving, the world of Haverford College.

The “real world” works very differently here. Driving on to campus, you pass a sign at the entrance that reads, “Private Property.” But then, beneath that, and in larger letters, it says, “Visitors Welcome.” When we pulled up outside the dorms on move-in day, our cars were swarmed by Customs People in brightly colored shirts, telling us how excited they were that we’d arrived, and carrying our things to our rooms. Rule Number One: no one moves themselves into Haverford. Right away, you have a family, one that never really goes away as long as you’re here.
We all have stories about unlocked bikes or laptops left unattended for hours, or the simple kindness of classmates who seek us out to return lost belongings. When people ask, “How are you?”, they care about the answer. The arboretum uses the all-campus email list to tell us how the trees are doing. Sometimes we’re late for class after an unexpectedly long lunch where we debated the DC workers about the prowess of our respective intramural basketball teams. Have you ever turned a corner, spotted a tree in full bloom, and found yourself stopping to stare? What about that first nice day in the spring, when the pinwheels appear on Founders Green, glinting in the sunlight?

Think about the time since move-in day: all those experiments you ran, all those hours in SuperLab. Think of your thesis, and of all the research you put into it. But our time here isn’t just measured by specific milestones, it’s everything put together. We juggled school, sports, committees, friends, fun, even sleep–sometimes, it wasn’t clear how everything was going to get done. But it always did, and that feeling of accomplishment was the surest sign we were growing into Haverford.

Our education here was not meant to be comfortable; it was meant to provoke, to stretch, to enrich. In class, we heard points of view we had never before considered, and so the conversation continued at the gym, on the green, and late into the night in common rooms. We owe more than we can say to the incredible professors who have challenged and inspired us. If you finish at Haverford after four years with the same ideas, same opinions, and same skills that you had during your first week, then it didn’t work, did it? But whether measured by academic enrichment, athletic achievement, or any other standard, Haverford has ‘worked’ for all of us.

And so we spent four years in not-quite-the-real-world, and it’s time for us to give the real, real world a try. But for the rest of our lives, “Haverford Class of 2012” is going to be one of the most accurate descriptors of our approaches to problems and solutions, to challenges and understanding, to learning, to community, to the world, to life. We will be taking a lot with us from this place– and, frankly, the real world out there could use a little more ‘trust, concern, respect.’ They say that “home is not where you live, but where they understand you,” and I can’t think of any group for whom that is more accurate. You get a family on day one, and no matter where you go from here, Haverford will always be home.

But because this is Haverford, I can’t end on a sentiment like that. Yes, hard work got us here, and that deserves to be recognized, but we had a lot of fun along the way. Haverford has always been about knowing how to not take ourselves too seriously. So I’d like finish by dedicating a poem to the class of 2012. It’s a poem of hope and uncertainty, of the future and the past, of confidence and self-questioning. It was written by someone whose great literary works, which reflect a keen understanding of the real world, are taught a little earlier than the freshman writing seminar. I mean Dr. Seuss, of course.

“You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang, and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because sometimes you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that bang-ups and hang-ups will happen to you.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! 98 and three-quarters percent guaranteed.”

As we take our next step into the world, remember how real this world has been, and remember that here at Haverford, you’ll always have a home.