As a senior on the precipice of graduation, I’ve done a lot of things I never imagined I would do. I completed the Great American Challenge and dated a frat star. I embraced the I.V. hippie-grunge and became Opinion Editor of my school newspaper. Each year I surprise myself.
Believe it or not, I’ve thought about writing my final editorial as Opinion Editor for the Nexus since Fall Quarter. The Nexus has been a huge part of my undergraduate career — arguably the most formative experience of the last four years. The Nexus turned my brilliant and quirky coworkers into my closest friends. Likewise, my inspired and motivated peers became my readership. I’ve thought about what eloquent, thought-provoking words I want to leave you all with many times. Then, suddenly and without warning or mercy, senioritis set in. What I thought I’d spend hours writing and editing and perfecting has become a frantic brain dump. I told myself I wouldn’t get on the soap box and that I’d avoid the cliches, but fuck it. I’m a big kid on campus. I do what I want.
The world changed for me when I learned to embrace discomfort. Joining a newspaper as outrageous and inflammatory as the Nexus as an 18-year-old was anything but easy. I wasn’t a journalist, I had no clue how to interview anyone and the then-Editor-in-Chief was quite possibly the most frightening human being I had ever met. I kept that to myself, continued to chip away at deadline after deadline, and was genuinely shocked when I was asked to be an editor. I was faking it. Apparently, I thought, I’m faking it so well that these idiots actually think I’m talented. It would take me even longer to come to the realization that everyone is faking it. You aren’t born an expert at anything. I can confidently say that almost every accomplishment or talent in my life was accompanied by at least some degree of discomfort, a few shreds of self-doubt and a shit-ton of hard work.
It’s easy to compare what you’re doing to what someone else is doing and feel discouraged and inadequate. But that’s a losing battle. Chances are there will always be someone doing something better than you — and you will always be doing something better than somebody else. The challenge is defining success for yourself, recognizing when you’ve done something well and congratulating those around you for their triumphs. When you begin to take pride in the successes of your friends, family members and peers, you’ll soon find yourself constantly proud and constantly celebrating.
As Daily Nexus opinion co-editor finished writing this in Michelle Wiemann’s room at 8:04 p.m. last night, a male stripper walked in her door to surprise a friend on her birthday at precisely 8:06 pm. Now that is constant celebration.
This past Saturday, I looked around our tiny, candlelit table as it overflowed with food and wine and a whole lot of faces that, just months ago, I never would have expected to be sharing a meal with. I don’t know how many times something has to happen before you can call it a tradition, but the several patio dinner parties I held with this eclectically wonderful group of people produced the fondest memories of my senior year — and it’s a tradition I’d continue for the rest of my life if I could convince them all to stick it out with me for that long.
There is something incredibly special — no, miraculous — about watching old and new friends come together in one little kitchen to cook a meal together. When you’re hovering over the stove with someone you just met — your pan’s cooking oil jumping up to gently singe their face as you wade through that first awkward conversation — it forces you to give a little more than you may be used to, and get a little more in return. As silly as it may sound, I believe these moments have shown me, more than anything else, the subtleties of developing friendships that soon become the foundations of lasting ones.
No way around it — these last few weeks have rocked me. I’ll catch myself tearing up on my evening walks, or obsessively reading the quotes in the bathroom stalls (I suspect they’re taken from Chicken Soup for the Soul), wondering if this will be my last time silently mocking them, or overwhelming moderate acquaintances with organ-crushing embraces totally inappropriate for our level of friendship.
And there are so many ordinary but consistent moments in the day that I count on to feel like everything else is intact. That guy I always make accidental and uncomfortably long eye contact with on the bike path … that girl at the coffee cart that’s always awesomely jolly when she takes my order — how will I go on without them? No, I’m not ready to leave this place behind. And frankly, I don’t know that I’ll ever be.
College is a beautiful tease. It broke my heart when I fell in friend-love with five different people just weeks before graduation. “Where were they hiding those first three years?” I gasped melodramatically to myself too many times. If you’re one of the thousands of lost souls who will be turning the tassel next weekend, you probably know this feeling of restless desperation all too well. And if you’re one of the chosen ones with a year or more to go, don’t fear; you’ll know it soon enough.
It all feels like a big mess of emotion. But truth be told, I’m a firm believer in that spiel my mom always tells me … something along the lines of “What’s meant to be will be.” Admittedly, I often fall victim to my own “Where is my life going?” nonsense and find myself curling up in the fetal with daunting thoughts of fast-food managerial positions and mini-vans pounding through my head.
Then I relax a bit and remember: It just goes on; everything that matters, at least. I found a home here in Santa Barbara, and more so than any concrete place, it’s in the fleeting but unparalleled moments of joy, and in the hearts of the people I’ve shared them with.
Though we’ve all heard the “best years of my life” line countless times, I’ve decided this is a falsehood adults tell us to keep us from failing out of high school. There’s quite a ways to go, my friends. But I beg you, make your last stretch a remarkable one, whether that means pulling yourself out of bed one morning to watch the sunrise with your roommates or cooking a spontaneous, vino-filled five-course meal with a bunch of crazy kids you’re thrilled to now call your friends.
This place has given us a lot. Give it back. Love it a little more than you should. And more importantly, take a quick look around the table and raise your glass to the people you never thought you’d know and the ones who’ve been there from the start. Because they may very well be there for the next toast, and all the ones after that.
Daily Nexus opinion co-editor Jana Barrett plans to spend her last days aggressively cuddling and lovin’ the shit out of that coffee cart chick.