By Lily Samuels ’11
It seems like I’ve
been saying goodbye to Smith for months now. Taking special
note of the angles of buildings and the slopes of roofs.
Paying particular attention to the tones of my professors’ voices.
Memorizing the faces of various dining hall staff, who have
been so gracious in filling my early morning coffee needs.
Closing my eyes and soaking in the atmosphere of the periodicals
rooms on the third floor of Neilson Library—a vaulted, mahogany-colored
space that, incidentally, I only frequent during Reading
Period, but that I love devotedly in my academic heart.
is a feeling on campus—brought on, I assume,
by the graduating class of seniors—of hushed waiting, as
if hundreds of breaths are bated. Some of the collective
exhale will come at Commencement on May 15, to be sure, in
a loud roar of exuberance and celebration. But I think the
remainder of breath will be released on May 16, as seniors
finish last-minute packing, lock rooms behind them and walk
out the door of their houses for the last time. This exhale,
I imagine, will be more of a sigh.
I don’t pretend that this
is easy, this “leaving” business. Of course, we who are graduating
have plenty to look forward to; Smithies have a knack for
finding impressive and enriching diversions after graduation.
As for me, I’m happily going (okay, running, that is) back
home to my partner and his son, ready to complete our family
of three while I work on my master’s degree. Despite a plan,
I can’t manage to keep the lump out
of my throat or the apprehension out of my voice when I talk
about the fact that soon I’ll be an alumna—not a student,
not a visitor, not a resident.
For so many students, this
campus has become an intellectual haven, a warm home, and
a safe place in which to self-discover. Far from perfect,
Smith has a way of coming to mirror its students—flawed,
complicated, and utterly charming. To leave it can feel like
a great loss, regardless of the excitement and promise of
our next phase.
Words like “loss,” “ending” and “leaving” carry
with them very real—sometimes
negative—emotional connotations, and we are encouraged by
society to maintain control and deal with them calmly. But
if there is one thing Smith has taught me, it’s that it often
makes more sense to reflect and wonder and worry and converse
than to swallow hard and pretend that silence is synonymous
Ironically, it was a walk around
this campus that brought me to the realization that I could
leave without losing the part of myself that is inextricably
tied to Smith. It was during the pre-dinner hush of late
afternoon several days ago. I was walking up campus from
behind Seelye Hall when I saw a dear professor of mine exiting
the building several hundred feet ahead. He was far enough
away so that calling out would have been awkward and uncouth,
but close enough that I wanted to walk with him. Maybe we
would recall the semester and have a laugh, I imagined, or
maybe just walk in comfortable silence together. But I couldn’t. So
I walked alone, staring a bit numbly at his back, fearing
that this was the beginning of a series of severances I would
have to make as I prepare to leave Smith.
After several minutes
I looked at the pavement and realized I was treading the
same path my professor had taken moments before. It was a
small, silly thought, but it was profoundly comforting. In
a way, I was walking with him.
I considered its significance.
In the coming years, my professors, fellow Smithies and I
will seldom walk side-by-side, collaborate, exchange ideas
and learn from each other as we have for the past four years.
The space between us may widen, but we need never walk alone.
This college will always connect