The way a person unwraps a present can say a lot about him or her. I realized that this past weekend as I handled ameticulously wrapped box placed in my lap. Karen had wrapped it so tightly that there was no evident fold under which I could slide my finger, gently undo the tape and extract the gift with the paper relatively intact.“What are you doing?” she laughed. “Who cares about the wrapping? Just rip it!” Three minutes later, when I was still searching for the perfect opening, Karen and the other women ceased to find me so cute. Half afraid they were going to take back the present, leave the party, or both, I gave into peer pressure and tore the gift open, somehow still managing to keep the wrapping in three delightfully whole pieces.
I have never been “a ripper,” one who tears off with great gusto gorgeous, delicately printed paper and takes much pleasure in hearing the sound roaring in their ears. I have, however, ever since I can remember, been a “peeler.” But this Sunday afternoon, I realized that my peeling meant something. I peel because I want to save, and I wanted so much to save the wrapping. Although pretty, the shiny Duke blue paper with loud polka dots probably wasn’t a show stopper. But in my mind the paper, folded and taped with care and encasing a cherry wood jewelry box with a glistening picture of the Chapel, was a beautiful thing. I couldn’t bear to let such a beautiful thing go.
With only a few weeks left at Duke, I have advanced to a whole new level of peeling and saving. Looking back on my four years here, I can’t bear to let this beautiful thing go. Road trips to Myrtle, Rockbridge and Florida, Friday nights in York Chapel, provocative classes, 12 Messiah performances, leaving the BC at 3 a.m. after “study sessions” turned into gab fests, WIVES in the gardens, dinners at professors’houses, midnight trips to Honey’s, volunteering at Wall town Children’s Theatre, Krispy Kreme runs and the incomparable feeling of elation in Cameron after a win.
Funnily enough, viewed in the tinted glass of departure and reminiscence, even moments that were painful and difficult have now become valuable. I remember entering Inter Varsity as a freshman and our staff worker Joe saying that feeling comfortable was not necessarily the best indicator for where we should make our home or whom we should befriend. When I’m asked what I would do differently if I could do Duke again, I realize I have no regrets because it truly was those times I was the most uncomfortable that I grew the most. I’m grateful that I’ve been surrounded by people who have set aside traditional notions of what encouragement, friendship or politeness look like and haven’t been afraid to challenge me about decisions, my relationships, my convictions of social justice and truth and even upholding responsibilities in 301 Flowers. It’s not easy to find a community so willing to push boundaries, care or expend energy on others, but somehow, with professors, friends from a cross section of campus and the staff at The Chronicle, I have.
I’ve been peeling and saving with extra urgency recently to capture every moment and emboss it in my mind, not wanting to forget a single person or memory. This temptation to hang on is because of the indelible marks these people have made on me. To all of you, I say thank you, because you bring to life that cliché quote about footprints on hearts—used ad nauseumin high school yearbooks—that I detested. This time, though, it’s true. Some people have come into my life and have quickly gone. But a number of extraordinary people, during these four years, have stayed awhile and left footprints on my heart. Because of them, I will never be the same.
So I face graduation, contentedly peeling and saving, knowing that this is not the end, nor even the beginningof the end, of a beautiful thing. This is, in fact, just theend of the beginning.
Christina Ng is a Trinity senior and a senior editor of TheChronicle.c
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