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FAREWELL COLUMN: Looking back, moving on: Let the fireworks begin

It was a Saturday night of one of the last weekends in college and the first real warm night of spring. My best friends and I were getting ready for that one last night out at Shooters when we realized the booms we heard were the fireworks at the Durham Bulls game just a few miles away. So we ran outside and stood on the balcony in awe, pointing at the bright flashes of light beyond the white buildings of our apartment complex and through the trees in the background. But soon, the girls all went back inside to the TV, the drinks, the makeup applications in front of the mirror, and I was out there alone.

I love fireworks. The flash of color, and the boom that hits after the light is gone. The way the smoke drifts away in the breeze, almost unnoticed, slinking off before the party is over. What I love most is the lapse between sight and sound, when you're suspended between the flash in your eyes and the boom in your ears. In that space between what you see and what you hear, time fades away.

Then, as suddenly as it started, it's over. The last wisps of color, the last curls of smoke disappear in the night sky. A flash, a jolt, and the fireworks are gone.

Standing there in the balcony, the thought hits me that college is almost over. A flash, a jolt, and all of a sudden here I am as a senior. I distinctly remember that last look back at the house as I drove away and headed to Duke in August of 2000. I remember my cell of a dorm room in Randolph and the first friends I found. Studying abroad at Oxford and in Spain, playing soccer, running the Wa-Duke trail. Finding the sisters I never had. Late night parties, early morning studying. Road trips, concerts and spring breaks. Outside my bedroom window, the Belmont pool in its seasonal stages--crowded, covered in snow and crowded again.

The moments are over but the memories remain, suspended between the present and the past. Time, absent in those moments, returns as we look back. And the details may fade away but the images remain. Like crumpled beer cans, glasses with dark stains on the rims, playing cards strewn all over the table. Like wrinkled sheets of an empty unmade bed as the morning sunlight peers through the blinds. Sheets of paper and dog-eared library books laying open on the floor, a trashcan full of old notes and useless marked up drafts after the essay has been turned in. A hangover and a fuzzy mind, as you reach for the phone to piece together the previous night. An empty quad and the scorched circle long after the bonfire is over, or the chapel standing silent after the 5 o'clock bells have stopped ringing. The gardens, in full bloom, then bare and now blooming again. So many pictures stuck away in albums, taken to remind us of the scenes that we now cannot place in our heads.

I cling to these memories, these pictures in my mind and in the albums, the words on the pages of journals and essays, in hope that I won't forget a moment. But each second the clock ticks, the stopwatch is winding down. A year, a semester, 70 days, four weeks. Now just the last paper, the last final, the last trip to Myrtle. And then clean up, graduate, pack up and go home. I hear the thundering boom in the air, signaling the last of that lapse between sight and sound, and the beginning of the end. It is no longer possible to forget about the clock, as time slips away like the Jello shots in our hands.

As I look back on four years at Duke, I want to say what everyone says at the end: don't take time for granted. Four years seems like forever when we are all young--but there will never be enough time to take all the classes, make all the friends and do everything just right before graduation day arrives. I remember thinking of college as a clear sky off in the distance that I couldn't wait to fill up with wonderful stories and memories. As I look back, I see all the scratches and marks--it was not perfect. But it never can be, and that's okay. So, make the mistakes. Sometimes, it's a mistake or a sudden change of heart that sends you down a completely different path in life. And if you stand there too long with your regrets, you'll miss the surprises.

For the seniors, college graduation is so close now. I see the empty sky of the future clearly in my head. No set plans, no college-like environment where we're thrown into a small space with many people and forced to make friends. It's scary, but I like it. Soon enough, life will begin away from Duke and we'll start writing new stories down in our minds, or perhaps on paper.

Let the fireworks begin.

Kiya Bajpai is a Trinity senior and features editor.


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