The “g word” is an awfully scary one right about now. I find myself avoiding places where it may be mentioned such as emails from any sort of Duke authority and underclassmen whose first thoughts are to blurt out, “You g------- in a week, wow!" or "How does it all feel?” And, of course, the ominous Duke University Commencement website.
This aversion strategy that I have adopted is most definitively a defense mechanism, allowing me to eschew the reality of the “real world” for as long as it is physically possible. I mean who wouldn’t prefer to pretend that the days of running into future NBA stars at the gym, strolling through the Duke gardens on a whim with your best friends, living within walking distance of the Duke Chapel and going out every night of the week, are forever?
However, as I begin to deconstruct the rationale behind my anxiety surrounding the “g word,” I find that while the aforementioned, iconic moments of my Duke undergraduate career are certainly icing on the cake, they are not the real reason I am so devastated about leaving this place. The much more terrifying, yet also much more truthful reason, is that over the last four years Duke has become my identity, my home, my heart and my everything. This institution has given me the world and in return I have given myself to it. Given this profound realization of just how deep my relationship is with Duke, it makes a whole lot of sense to me that the "g word” simultaneously horrifies me, depresses me and terrifies me because graduating (ah, yeah, I said it) is the equivalent of having my heart broken, embarking on a cross country move and having a midlife crisis, all at the same time.
Yet, I find solace in the fact that having an opportunity this rich, a relationship this intense and a feeling of such remarkable gratitude towards a place, means that just because I am separating myself geographically from Duke does not mean that it is going away.
I know Duke will forever be a part of me. I know that I will always have a home here. I know that the relationships I have formed during these four years will navigate me throughout my life and that Duke’s network will serve as constant source of connection to both old and new friends. I know that Duke will continue to be an incredible establishment that I will forever be proud to call my alma mater (and so much more).
So, thank you Duke for giving me what was above and beyond the most outstanding undergraduate college career that I could have possibly imagined. Four years ago, I didn’t know friendships as strong as the ones I am leaving here with existed. I wasn't aware that it was possible to achieve as much as I have by age 21. I was under the impression that college was just a time in which young people attended some cool classes and way too many parties. I had thought that Duke was just a school.
Today, I now know what Duke really is, which is precisely why graduating is the scariest, and also the most exciting thing, I will have done to date.
So thank you Duke, for giving me something that is so incredibly hard to walk away from.
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