In 23 days I will wake up in an empty room and pack my bed sheet and pillow case into the last of my open boxes. I will take a shower, brush my teeth and wear a suit that I will buy a few days from now. My mother, who may or may not fly all the way from Bangladesh, will call to see if I’m awake and if I made sure to pack my bedding. My father, who has already booked his ticket for the trip, will call five minutes later to tell me he just finished breakfast at the campus center.
I will then put on my black robe and hat, lock my door and leave my dorm. I will get another call from my mother’s phone. It will be my sister, who will tell me that she’s proud and can’t wait to see me out there. I will hang up, breathe a sigh and go to my graduation.
A lot has happened in the world since we came to Lawrence as freshmen. George W. Bush was still president when you met your roommate for the first time. The iPad hadn’t come out when you were reading books for Freshman Studies. Friday nights did not bear any association to an Internet meme of the same name. “Lost” aired its fourth season later that year. Heath Ledger was found dead in his apartment before audiences would get to see him as The Joker. The Campus Center was a heap of steel and concrete. The Grill at the Memorial Union served Chicken Tender Pita. There was a coffeehouse across from the VR. Kaleesha Rajamantri ’10, Sarist Macksasitorn ’10, Suzie Kraemer ’10, Melody Moberg ’10, Aneesh Chauhan ’09, Murtaza Amiryar ’10 and many others came into our lives and went away.
Last year, I made sure to stay back to attend graduation. A lot of people I knew would be getting their diplomas that day and I had my camera ready. I ran all over Main Hall green to take pictures of friends as they got up from their seats and walked onto stage with loud applause. And when it was over I stuck around to say my goodbyes.
I remember pushing through a crowd to get as close to the front as possible and being asked by a parent, “Which one is yours?” I chuckled and pointed to Murtaza Amiryar, a friend of mine from Afghanistan and replied, “That one.” I was in the trenches with friends, family and loved ones, fighting to catch that proud smile or tearful embrace on film. But, I never got to know many of the seniors who graduated that day as well as I would have liked to. I was sad to realize that I will never get that opportunity.
Seniors, you already know that you should go to every last recital, attend every gathering, cross every last item off your bucket list and drink yourself to a stupor when you’re done. I’m here to tell you something different.
Do something nice for the people you love at Lawrence. Stop that person you never got to know but wish you did from doing whatever he or she’s doing and have a conversation about life. Ask that friend whom you didn’t have time for this year to have dinner with you sometime next week. Tell that international student you always hang out with that you will miss him or her when you leave.
Remember to say that you’ll try to stay in touch, even if he or she’s halfway across the world. Grow a pair and ask that guy or girl you like out for a cup of coffee and tell him or her how you feel. It may not lead to anything — which will be sad — but you’ll feel a whole lot better for having done it. Trust me.
Enjoy your last days at Lawrence, but don’t forget to share it with the people who matter to you. It may be the last chance you get to make an impression. I will leave you with some advice from Bob Dylan:
Come gather around people wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
Accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
Oh the times, they are a-changin’