You are going out into a beautiful and scary world. You are going to do things for yourself from now on. Sure, you may have a small taste of independence from the time you’ve spent as a student and artist in this crazy, unique, wonderful place. But now you have to decide who you will be outside of here. What will define your first foray into adulthood? What will you take away from this place where you grew up, where you honed your craft, where you learned to take care of your friends and they took care of you, where, somewhere in the middle of the cuddles and Instagram photos and food deliveries, you built a second home? How will you leave here and still take the ghosts of something that was so central to your being and identity along with you?
These questions are all running through your mind, whether you realize it or not. You probably won’t be able to answer them right away, or maybe ever. But I do have a few hopes for you and the life you build after you leave.
I hope you make your own decisions because they are the right ones for you, not because all the friends you hastily made during freshman orientation all decided to do keg stands and you feel like you have to do one, too, or because your academic advisor is pressuring you to pick a more “responsible” major. I hope some of these decisions lead to mistakes and you can laugh about them . . . maybe not until five or ten years down the road, but still laugh nonetheless.
I hope you love and love completely. Love without focusing on whether it is the right kind of love or the right person. Love and maybe you won’t be loved in return, but at least you will see what it’s like to watch your heart float away and tie itself to another person’s for a little while. Love and eventually find a person who loves you back, too — maybe a friend, maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe a roommate, but someone whose heartbeat aligns with yours. Love and soak in the fact that you are human and capable of loving and being loved, and let that be a defining moment for you, as it is for every person at some point in their life.
I hope that you don’t stop being you. No boy is worth changing your personality, no audition is worth pretending to be someone you’re not, and no lie is worth telling to avoid showing someone else the beauty that is within you. I hope you let other people see your own unique light that has lit up our little house of girls for the past year.
I hope you know how beautiful this year has been because you were a part of it. I hope you know that I learned just as much from you as you did from your experiences at this school. I hope you tell me about your future successes and disappointments if you need someone to tell those things to, and that you know I still care what happens to you after you leave here.
So soak up every last second you have here. Cry and laugh and jump up and down and drape yourself over your friends and watch the sunset over the lake and appreciate everything that is around you for these next 24 hours. Celebrate the fact that you survived, you succeeded, and be proud of yourself! Be excited about the possibilities the future holds! Let your goodbyes be bittersweet and soaked in tears, but remember that nothing you do, no move you make in the future, will take away the memories you have in this place. You are leaving this place but it is not leaving you, and that is something you can hold onto.
I will miss you, but I can’t wait until our paths cross in the future. Because I have a feeling that they just will, and that will be beautiful.