A caricature of a confused graduate. Illustration by Kate Saylor.

Leaving College Brings Feelings of Loss and Loneliness for Senior

Six years ago, I walked onto Lewis & Clark’s campus for the first time. I fell in love with the forest, the buildings, the people. Two years after that I came back as a bright-eyed first-year. New Student Trips, orientation, E&D and dorm life consumed me. I was having the time of my life and it felt like it would never end.

But now, there is about a month left of school. After May 11, I will never be a student again. “Student” has been my identity for as long as I can remember and it is terrifying to have to find a new identifier. What will I be after school ends? So many years of my life have led up to this point. The path has been clearly set before me since I was three years old, culminating in graduation from college. As the dark abyss of the job market and elusive future career emerges in front of me, I have no choice but to dive in.

Nevertheless, I do not want to waste my final five weeks at LC worrying about my future. These are my last weeks as a student, and while that may seem scary or even exciting when thinking of finally moving on, I want to live out my last days to the fullest. This is the time to spend with people I may not see again, or at least will have to put significant effort into seeing later in life. Before I move away to a new city and leave my fellow Pioneers behind, I want to make final meaningful memories. I want to go to more bars in Portland, and spend more time downtown in general. I feel that I did not take advantage of the city enough in my time here. I want to spend as much time with my friends as possible.

This has proved difficult over the course of this semester. Many of my senior friends share my sentiment, but we all have so much to do. Thesis, capstone, final projects, important last-minute classes, independent studies and all of the other final tasks of college consume us. Schedules rarely line up and everyone laments not being able to hang out as much as we would like. My non-senior friends understand to an extent, but there is another factor at play there. From a social standpoint, spending all your time with people who are leaving is not the strongest option. If all of your friends leave, then you could feel lost at the start of the new year. When I was younger and became close with seniors, it always made me sad to know that they were leaving so soon. In some ways, it may not seem worth it to put your limited time into a friendship with a graduating senior over someone in your own grade. This leaves me focusing most on my senior friends. I want to make it clear to the people I care about that I do not expect our relationship to end just because we will not be together anymore. In this day and age, it is much easier to keep up friendships over distance, and I have to remember that this is possible.

The end is near, and those of us leaving feel a sense of loneliness. Soon the support system I have built here will not be so easily available to me. I have begun to feel this loss even before it has fully come to pass; while this might be due to my nervous nature, I believe that many experience this as they brace themselves for entry into the post-collegiate world. The fears of moving on, being alone, starting a new life and losing the comforting structure of education are sometimes overwhelming. Going to college was starting over, and now I have to do it again; no longer as a “student,” but as an “adult.” I just have to remember that I still have time. It is not over yet, and worrying about the end before it is here only hurts me. It is time to remember the amazing four years I had here and finish them by doing all of the things that make me happy, for they have made me who I am today.

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