I'm not quite certain what to make of this whole graduation thing. Most people I know dread the event; after all, it's the culmination of four years that are supposed to make up the best of your life. As I've always understood it, no one is supposed to want to graduate.
Believe me, I don't. I've never been one for goodbyes, and frankly, I think there's a good part of me that, like my fellow seniors, is currently choosing to ignore the looming end to our college days. It makes sense--there's really no point in treating each day as if it were our last, even if it is.
But I think there's more to it than that. I know a number of seniors who lately have begun declaring, "I'm so glad I'm getting out of here," and for a while it surprised me. After all, that's not how graduation is supposed to be, and the real world is the enemy, not the goal. Still, if you listen carefully, you can almost hear the quiet murmuring of seniors admitting, "I'm getting out of here before it's too late."
That's not to say Duke isn't still going to be a great place to spend future years, or that I think transferring elsewhere will become the next trend. But the Class of 2002 has had to face the reality that the Duke of our freshman year, the Duke we first fell in love with, isn't going to be here after we leave.
That's what makes it a little bit easier to move on. We've spent the last four years learning to get used to change, and although a majority of the changes at the University have been for the better, it still taught us an unfortunate lesson--don't get too used to anything. When you're graduating from a school that's set to undergo a virtual face-lift the minute you leave, it makes it hard to get nostalgic.
I've seen The Rat, Old House CC and Phi Psi go, and I remember when getting a spot in the Ocean lot was a bad thing--now I'd welcome it. Believe it or not, there was a time before the 'Dillo, McDonald's, ARAMARK and the Loop; we used to be able to Slide-Away to the Hideaway and K-ville used to be a patch of grass right off Towerview Drive.
Next year, when I return for homecoming, I'll find my envy-producing single on Main West Campus to be a double, the quads and fraternity sections where I spent so many fun nights will have relocated, and it's likely I'll need directions to visit old friends. And that's only come the fall; by my five-year reunion I'm not sure how much of campus will still be recognizable, as parking garages and building additions begin to dominate the landscape.
The fact remains that the Class of 2002 will be one of the last to see the old Duke--before changes like Curriculum 2000 and the residential life plan. Over the course of our years here, we've gotten used to seeing much of what we've known weaned out of Duke life, and I think that's hardened us a bit to the usual sadness of graduation.
There hasn't been a year during my undergraduate days that hasn't been marked by significant change--and maybe that's a factor of the Capital Campaign, the era we live in or life itself. But frequent change has made graduation and the thought of even more change a little easier to get accustomed to.
I'm not complaining. A lot of these changes will be great for Duke, and for those that won't be, well, thank goodness I'm getting out of here. I'll admit I was glad not to take part in the new housing lottery, and that I won't experience the parking rate increases next year. And I still don't understand what happened to the Oak Room.
Rather, I'll miss the friends who have become my second family, the fun times we've had and the joys of being a young college student without real-world worries. But those aren't specific to Duke; they're college memories, and I'm not old enough to begin missing those. I like to think the joys of being young still have at least a few more good years left.
So graduation may involve a lot of goodbyes but not to fun, excitement or adventures, and certainly not to my dear friends. Instead, it's to the place I spent my college years.
The Duke I attended is headed for bigger--and hopefully--better things, so it seems it isn't the Class of 2002 graduating from the University but rather Duke leaving behind the days of the Gothic Wonderland for a new era in its institutional life.
In the end, it's easier to move on when you're not doing it alone, and the upcoming changes are a bit easier to accept knowing we're all headed for new, exciting things--alma mater included.
Trinity senior Ellen Mielke is editor of TowerView and a former features editor of The Chronicle.
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