Unfashionable Nonsense: Saying Goodbye to Stanford

Opinion by and
June 3, 2010, 12:34 a.m.

Unfashionable Nonsense: Saying Goodbye to StanfordNo, I am not a senior. My goodbyes are not goodbyes for good, but goodbyes for now.

But, if I may dare to generalize the impossibly unique experiences of some 6,000-plus individual undergraduates, I think it’s safe to say that we all can feel that the end of a year–whether you’re a freshman or a senior–is something of a real goodbye, a tangible end to something special.
While I was back home during our last break, a certain insipid song by Owl City came on the radio while I was driving with my best friend from high school, Shelby. Neither of us particularly likes the song. It came to one line, “I’m weird because I hate goodbyes,” and Shelby, with a deserved dose of righteous indignation, replied to the singer: “No, you’re not weird because you hate goodbyes. You’re not. Everyone hates them.”

And, of course, she’s right.

By my lights, a goodbye is precisely the moment when you look up and see what you’ve made of your life–and what you’ve missed. A goodbye is when you take your eyes off the road in front of you that you’ve set for yourself–and, let’s be real here, if you’re a Stanford student, you’ve probably designed, built, analyzed, psychoanalyzed, destroyed and rebuilt the path you’re now on at least once or twice–and realize that there were other exits you could have taken. Some are receding far behind, touching the horizon; some are just in your blind spot; and others are just about to pass right now. Again, I’ll commit the venial sin of generalizing my eccentric and highly individual peers: as a group, Stanford students have many opportunities. The number of potential careers that any given Stanford freshman could not just pursue but rock is probably greater than the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop–and, yes, Mr. Owl, that’s a damn lot more than three. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it seems to me that college is not some direct path connecting high school to life. This school demands of us, and we demand of ourselves, something greater than that. It demands that we cut our own path, because the prefab ones just won’t do. Sometimes it’s easier to keep your eyes on the GPS, where streets are simplified and distractions are minimized into a few bland shapes, than to take the time to see what’s really going on all around you.

But when we say goodbye, we force ourselves out of routine, because the routine itself is not immortal. I will not be a Stanford junior forever; in fact, I won’t even be one for another two weeks. For fairly obvious emotional, psychosomatic and entropic reasons, this can be designated as horrifying. Everyone hates goodbyes.

I could argue that goodbyes are also the sign of the birth of something new, etc. etc., so we should really embrace them, but I think that misses the point. It’s just true that goodbyes are hard, and I think it’s more or less the case that they always will be. It’s not that I don’t realize moving on will bring me better things–Lord knows that being a freshman forever would not be a dream, but a nightmare, considering that Wilbur Dining food gets old within plus or minus 14 days for each and every incoming freshman class. It’s that I’m unsure of the future and justifiably disappointed because I am losing something valuable. I am being torn away all at once from something familiar and actual in exchange for something foreign and potential.

So, I’ll be saying goodbye to Stanford for a while–and much of the Class of 2010 forever. My consolation isn’t that this shouldn’t be upsetting, but that it should be. It’s not that all change is good, but that some isn’t bad. What’s great about Stanford, what’s great about the Stanford Class of 2010 and what’s great about each individual here, is all due to these upsetting goodbyes giving us the freedom to take up a paper map to chart our course, turn “Party in the USA” up loud and drive.

In an uncharacteristically sincere moment, Emily feels compelled to say she has absolutely loved writing a column in The Daily and will be continuing her “Stanford” “writing” “career” this summer at http://theclawmagazine.com/blog/. Send snide remarks and stray observations to [email protected].

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