The independent news organization of Duke University

Saying goodbye to my youth

It's not easy to say goodbye.

I remember the goodbye with my parents nearly four years ago when they left their 18-year-old son at the West Campus bus stop, four years of college and a world of opportunities ahead of him. After the obligatory hugs and goodbye kisses, my dad had a few final words for me.

"Greg," he said, "I better not get a call from the Durham Police Department."

So far, so good.

Now it's time for me to say goodbye to what has become my home over the last four years, and over the past few days I've been trying to decide whether I want my final words in this newspaper to be in jest like my dad's were (hopefully) that day, or whether I should search for something more meaningful.

One friend told me I should make a list of suggestions about how I would change Duke, but I'm not really into whining about things that have almost no chance of changing. (OK, you got me, I am-but not right now.) Another friend suggested I take some parting shots at the people in the athletics department I've challenged over the years, but it doesn't seem quite worth it at this point to burn more bridges than I already have. A third friend said it might be funny if I offered advice for incoming Duke students, but I don't think I could fit that all into one column.

Most of all, though, I think it's been tough to find the words to say goodbye to college because it isn't really about saying goodbye to college. It's about saying goodbye to childhood, to innocence, to irresponsibility.

For all of us that aren't headed to graduate school next year, college is the final stop on the predetermined path our parents set us on two decades ago. Sure, there were some choices along the way, but for most of us at Duke, it was assumed that graduation from some college was inevitable, the same way that we finished elementary, middle and high school before getting in and deciding to come here.

I would be remiss to not-and embarrassed if I couldn't-take a few moments to reflect on how I have matured during my time in Durham. My classes have challenged me intellectually, though there are still some books on my shelf I wish I had read more closely. My friends and peers have shaped my personality, helping me to strike better balances between confidence and humility, sarcasm and seriousness, compassion and strength of conviction. My thousands of hours working at The Chronicle (no exaggeration) have prepared me for the real world working environment, which I doubt will ever be as fun as it has been for the past four years in 301 Flowers.

College is supposed to be about becoming an adult, and all of these factors have pointed me in that direction. But in many ways, I think college is really about finishing childhood. After this year, it will never again be appropriate to spend an entire day in bed watching TV because I'm too lazy (or hungover) to get dressed. I can't imagine either that it will seem like the right decision to spend an entire finals week beating a video game, to skip class to play golf or to drive through the night with seven friends in a rented RV to spend a couple nights partying in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.

All of these hypothetically, of course.

It's not that life after college won't be fun and rewarding. Isn't that why we came to Duke in the first place? Like my classmates, I'm leaving college prepared to lead what I hope and expect to be a happy, healthy and successful life.

But after this, the mistakes I make will be 100 percent on me. Not on Duke, not on my parents; my actions will be my responsibility. Every step before Life After College, from grade school to summer camp to college, had some level of safety net built in. If I fell down, there was someone there who not only would-but had to-help me back up.

So most of all, my goodbye is to the safety net that was childhood. Goodbye Mom and Dad's credit card. Goodbye youthful spontaneity. Goodbye consequence-less actions. Goodbye irresponsible indiscretions.

It's not easy to say goodbye, but it's time.

Greg Beaton is a Trinity senior. He has worked for The Chronicle for four years, serving as the paper's sports editor during his junior year. He would like to thank his family and friends for all their support.


Share and discuss “Saying goodbye to my youth” on social media.