During move-in and the start of classes last week, I saw and heard fellow '16ers saying things like, "The last first day of move-in!" or "The last first day of class!" or "The last first time I sleep past my new semester's class!"
Now, at first this freaked me out. As the year started and I began writing my last first blog post, I couldn't help but feel a certain gravity in everything. For it is:
We're on our way out! Everything matters like it never did before! Maybe part of the anxiety comes from an expectation that after three years at Princeton, we should be entering this year as cool, perfectly collected seniors.
In reality, the difference between freshman and senior Aliisa might seem a little more like:
But if I'm being fair to myself and to all the people that have poured into me, I know much more than my haircut has changed since 2012. A few examples:
- The teaching and courses I've experienced over the years have shaped a much sharper writer, artist and thinker. My work and opportunities to serve have changed how I see the world and who I am.
- I enter senior year with friendships closer, sweeter and crazier than any I had known before.
- I have a closer relationship with God. Princeton's Christian fellowships especially have encouraged me to embrace faith not just as a thing my family does, but as a deeply personal and beautiful relationship to steer my life.
- I'm starting school committed to pursuing my relationship with a certain awesome boy who is now out on the West Coast, being a scientist and eating In-N-Out.
- After discovering the beautiful world of illustration and design on campus, I'm planning how I can illustrate in my career beyond Princeton.
- I just know more about life! People, choices, difficulties and joy all have shaped my heart and maturity in quiet and lasting ways.
- Also, my face is on the banner of a Princeton blog. That definitely wasn't a thing before.
So instead of the doom of "A Year of Lasts," I'm thinking of 2015-16 as
I've been moving along these past three years through some truly exciting and endearing vignettes. There was studying, travel to China, classes, admissions blogging, beautiful friendships, more studying: It's been everything I could ask for in a good story.
Now, you know the feeling of turning to a chapter that you know is the last? When you suddenly realize how few the remaining pages are compared to the chunk you have already read?
But if it's been a rich story with nuanced layers of struggle and delight, this moment should be one of both excitement and reluctance.
As I'm diving into my last chapter at Princeton, I'm realizing I have had the rich and engaging type of story. A part of me protests, "Aaah, let's just stop here!!" for I know as the pages go by, I'll never be able to read this Princeton book for the first time again, never enter as a fresh and eager-eyed student. When I leave, I'll be leaving people, Late Meal, and so many more parts of Princeton life I have grown to deeply appreciate.
But I know that the bittersweet haze that comes at the thought of leaving only exists because of the richness I've experienced in the past three years. I am truly grateful for that.
Plus, these last pages are also the most exciting! What is it like to be kings and queens of the campus? Where does the relationship go? What shenanigans do my friends and I get into? Why is our Christmas break two-weeks long? Does my thesis make it to the printer on time?
And what kind of sequel do my choices and decisions prepare me for? I'm excited for the discoveries to come in my (hopefully) many years beyond Princeton: travel, a career, people I don't even know yet, a continued walk with God, maybe a family one day, AARP... I don't know what the plot line is, but I really am looking forward to the crisp, yet unread pages of that next book.
With all that being said, I propose a toast to this new school year. To underclassmen and juniors, I say soak it in while you can! To my fellow seniors, I say let's go for it and read on.
To anyone beyond that, you are older and wiser, so you can give me the advice.
(Or a job! That'd be cool, too.)