Well, it finally happened. I graduated from the greatest University in the world yesterday and I cannot imagine a better conclusion to the best years of my life.
I said that to Kelsey once and she turned to me in shock, “Shannon, don’t be one of those people who say that the best four years of their life were spent in college.”
Truth. She has a point.
I am certain the best is yet to come:
All those things that make life, rich, grand and so worth living (some more distant in the future than others) .
But even in light of those things, I still think it’s safe to say that the best years of my 22-year-long life have been spent in Chapel Hill. Why? Well, let’s just say it’s complicated. Those who haven’t experienced UNC’s students, walked it’s campus, eaten at its restaurants, or cheered within an arena full of 22,000 Carolina basketball fans may not quite understand. I have too many memories tied up to so many places during these past four years.
Yesterday, Mom asked me at lunch to share my favorite memory from the past four years. I easily could’ve spouted off an impressive list of who’s who and what’s what that I did and experienced on campus (Honor Court, our 2009 National Championship, my trip to Israel or even the year I was Editor-in-Chief of Blue & White).
But, those didn’t feel quite right; I couldn’t give her a coherent answer.
I’ve been thinking about that question throughout today. And now, I want to try.
Yes, Carolina is special.
But to me, Carolina has been more than just basketball fanaticism or stellar academics or even a gorgeous campus.
Carolina is vibrant because of the people.
These past four years have not given me one great memory, or even a handful, but hundreds of memories filled with friends, friendships, relationships, people. Granted, I loved those 10 AM brunches in Lenior, late night rounds of mafia/the hat game, days of frisbee on the Quad, Obama’s visit to campus, Cornerstone Bible Studies, Psalm 100 concerts, YoPo trips, home basketball games and Cornerstone’s semi-formal.
But, they meant nothing without the people I shared them with — great as those ‘activities’ were in and of themselves.
Let’s be honest, I didn’t go to Lenoir for the pure enjoyment of its fine cuisine; I didn’t get a pint of Thin Mint YoPo to eat by myself; and I certainly did not play any rounds of the hat game solo.
I spent them all with fellow undergraduates.
My favorite memory is living with friends — those people who also have the lyrics to the Alma Mater memorized, who know the correct pronunciation of ‘Dey Hall,’ and who know that tribal-like joy of rushing Franklin Street!
I could not have completed these past four years without them, without their empathy during those dark exam days and rough “what was I thinking?” days and their encouragement (because I’ve found I often need that bolster — and that redirection back to God). I’ve loved sharing in their ups and downs and I’m waiting to see what adventures unfold for each of them in the future.
They’re the reason I’ll ache for the memories of undergrad next year.
And they’re the reason friendships were so easy — every person you met was so eager to be your friend. Our lifestyle was so carefree — all I had to budget for were nights out on Franklin Street with a group of friends. Within the classroom, the atmosphere was both foundational and social — although I absolutely loathed all the group projects, I think they’re an accurate testament to undergrad’s focus on friendship and collaboration.
And, that’s my favorite memory from undergrad.
I’m sorry if that’s cheesy, or a cop out. But it’s true. My friends are the memory I’m never going to forget because I think this will be the only time in my life where I’m surrounded by a group of incredibly diverse people who are also so incredibly in love with and devoted to this “University of the People.”
I’m not sure who said it, but they’re right: Life was not meant to be lived in solitude (what do you have to say to that, Ralph Waldo Emerson?).
Goodbye, Carolina Undergrad!
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”