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If I had known senior year would end like this

senior column

It didn’t really hit me that senior year was over until I went up to The Chronicle’s office in 301 Flowers to grab my stuff while frantically packing over spring break. Then I walked in the empty newsroom and sat on the couch and realized that we would never hang out in the office again as students, working late into the night or just watching basketball games on the TV.

I hadn’t known that those last nights of photo production and video meetings and milkshake runs were the last ones. Graduation felt a million miles away the last time we were all laughing in the office, and nothing was supposed to be the last until suddenly there was no chance to have another. 

And what I had pushed off until the last few weeks of senior year would now go undone: I wouldn’t have the chance to slow down and just enjoy the moments and people around me in the last few weeks of undergrad. 

At Duke, it’s so easy to get caught up in the weekly and semester cycles of deadlines and stress. There’s always another assignment due, another extracurricular meeting, another job application. There’s always something that needs to get done. 

I don’t mean to reduce our Duke experiences to the workload, but there is an expectation here that we’re always busy—and that makes it really hard to stop and smell the roses. After all, that’s what senior spring is for.

Senior spring: when we all catch “senioritis” and have our LLDOC and our last beach week and our last days in the gardens with friends. It’s sad to miss milestones, to not get to spend this time with friends and say proper goodbyes and graduate in Wallace Wade on a sweltering day in May. 

But we’ve had the last 3.8 years at Duke. And as sad as I am that we didn’t get these last weeks on campus, I’m more sad that I spent the last few years living like we would, assuming there would be a blessed few weeks in the spring to just soak it all in and commit to memory the experience of being an undergrad at Duke. 

Now we’re all taking our last classes on Zoom, unable to hug friends goodbye and trying to explain to our parents that we’ve been told graduation will happen, but we have no idea when. 

I’m incredibly privileged to be waiting this out at home with a loving family, and sadness about losing last weeks on campus is on an exponentially smaller scale than those who are losing friends and family and their livelihoods to this horrific pandemic. 

I don’t mean to whine about what we’ve lost, but instead to say that I wish I hadn’t waited until the end to slow down and take it all in. 

If I had known senior year would end like this, I wouldn’t have put off those catch-up lunches. I would have spent more time committing to memory the old photos and jokes and front pages that line the Chronicle office walls, rather than just letting my eyes skim over them out of habit from seeing them a thousand times before.

I hope that when we come out of this we hug each other tighter and forgive more easily. I hope that we take more time to enjoy the moments as they come, rather than letting each semester’s deadlines consume us. 

I hope that we won’t see the world the same way when this is over. 

The next time the Class of 2020 is on campus, we won’t be students anymore. Whether it’s graduation or homecoming or just visiting on our own, my guess is we’ll feel slightly out of place. We won’t have dorm rooms to go to, food points to use or classes to attend. 

And as much as I wish that I had been more intentional about appreciating each moment when it happened, reflecting on those now—whether over unstable Zoom connections with friends or scrolling through blurry photos on my camera roll—helps bring some semblance of the closure I expected to find through LLDOC and Commencement. 

Staring down the looming question of life ahead, so little feels concrete. I can’t tell you where I’ll live in 20 years or what type of reporting I’ll be doing. But I can tell you that I’ll keep coming back to this place for a long time. 

I think part of the meaning of making this place ours for four brief years is that Duke and the homes we found here are anchors to the time we spent and the people we shared it with, no matter how far we drift away. The relationships we built and memories we shared are not confined to that campus, but Duke is an artifact of the time we spent there. 

For me, I found a home in 301 Flowers—and someday far away in the future, I can’t wait to drag my kids up those blasted stairs, show them all around the place and tell them about the people who made it special. 

Bre Bradham is a Trinity senior and video editor, and was previously editor-in-chief of The Chronicle’s 114th Volume. Bre knows this is a long ending, but she’s pulling last-byline-privilege. 

She would like to thank Ben Leonard for being a relentless reporter and amazing managing editor, and for making everything more fun; Nathan Luzum for being the most selfless person she knows at Duke; Isabelle Doan for bringing her sense of humor to the office and filling the quote wall; Lexi Kadis for her never-ending patience and her beautiful drawings; and Shagun Vashisth for the joy she brought to the office (even past bedtime).

She would also like to thank Stefanie Pousoulides, Michael Model, Winston Lindqwister, Kathryn Silberstein, Leah Abrams, Sujal Manohar, Charles York, Mary Helen Wood, Derek Saul, Nina Wilder, Likhitha Butchireddygari and General Manager Chrissy Beck for all they’ve done for The Chronicle. Additionally, she would like to congratulate Jake Satisky for an incredible year at the helm and wish Matthew Griffin the best of luck as he leads the paper forward. 

Finally, she’d like to thank everyone who has worked at The Chronicle for the last four years for making 301 Flowers her favorite place to be.  

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