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The Southern California sky is ocean wide and unblemished as April blossoms and I am a wonder-full freshman — the day is free of worry like childhood days forever remembered; it is Saturday and people are on their way over. Catching curves of wind, long white window blinds waver in sequence, shooting glimpses of light around the Fawcett apartment living room as noise turns the corner with familiar faces. I hope to never forget the color on these faces as for the past four months, every free moment we had was cherished and spent together. Like Tommy, Chucky, Dill and Phil — their stories are my stories. Eyes closed, my memories dance in the dark.

Amongst California’s soul under a white sun, I learned to tell my story and was decorated with air for every dash of originality. With caring friends, my cup overflowed; finding room for expression, I flooded presenting my honest story and thoughts to my close others. As it was spun, my friends and peers were individuals who carried weighted opinions and attracted others like magnets. Individuals who are eager to teach and show. Individuals who ask questions to understand and to build. Individuals who listen and learn and react.

Quickly, I learned to let people in. I connected origins with others; shared respect, ran with jokes, embarked on trips, and retold personal times with others. I listened to others. As so, new lights shined in me as close, trusted voices were truly heard and considered. Another’s gained perspective and personality will naturally differ from my upbringing, but I saw the growth in that diversity just as the Claremont community did. Looking through shared glass, understanding my close friends’ perspectives and personalities came to alter mine, changing mental hues and moods through conversation and play, creating new ways for me to view my interior and my surroundings.

By sophomore spring, my life finally became circular as last week’s jest, yesterday’s jazz, and midnight’s thoughts dripped into the present’s robust brew. Every second spent together stirred the pot, though the sky was fabric and blue always. Days felt hypnotic. The people you danced with last night expect to dance with you this night since the dream has not yet run its course. It was beautiful: we all wanted to animate a world and live in it together for the time that we had.

Saturdays are big. By noon, people are on Green Beach lounging: drinking, tanning, canoodling, reading, socializing. No fences, no commotion, no deans. Spellbound, Camp Claremont let us explore and we decided to focus on each other and the outdoor warmth. Campus was a grounds for play and weekends felt of summer’s lust, frequently breaking into the pool to be dipped cool. These days are my self-education, as I spend all day absorbing the light of my close others. Storytelling and conversation display tones and contour lines on characters as jarred marbles are exposed and held high to the sunshine for others to observe. Willfully, we sit for lessons on these days; everyone as a student, everyone as a teacher. We play games and make connections. Timeless moments make it on walls and each of you grow to be more to me. As a result, my worth bears fruit being in company of such positive, profound figures. In rainbow fashion, our distinct shades of character band across the Claremont sky as we meld a social rhythm. I’ve learned their tendencies. I’ve learned their styles. I’ve learned their lives. And they’ve learned mine. As diverse individuals, we collided and energized each other. As friends, we influenced one another.

Each semester at CMC has brought a belt of bright individuals into my space, and as a second semester senior, I am fearful of the solitude that will burden me privately once I leave campus this spring. I am going to miss having best friends as neighbors, kind eyes as peers, and wild minds as motivation. Three years ago, I was blessed to enter the lives and homes of the elegant, intelligent, and booming upperclassmen of the Claremont Colleges. When collected, they were eccentric. A line of proud individuals, each pocketing a voice and personal quirks. Each with storied experiences. Each with flaws. Interested, I listened and watched. Upon hearing my story, they brought me in and asked for more. I had to speak up. I had to establish myself. I had to be honest. Internally I whirred; my world moving to questions: what stories to tell, how do I act, who am I, what do I love? Though my time at CMC is almost over, as a gift from the past, these flames continue to burn today and for that I am thankful.

The culture of Camp Claremont would begin to fade over my subsequent semesters at CMC to replicate the stature of other rigorous liberal arts institutes in this nation. In changing its hat, I am afraid that CMC may be ushering in a community that does not value the lights of social life. I am afraid the social, happy life that this institute once nurtured and promoted is being dethroned by the opposing party. I am afraid my senior spring will not spike my memory as did my freshman spring, and that I will not remember CMC for all that it was. In my final semester, I wish for a CMC of the past.

I want the Claremont community to delve back into the organic, student-focused functions that I was a votary for as an avid freshman; when social exploration was as important as finding an internship or studying for midterms, when self-discovery was at the forefront of our higher education. Where is the CMC that taught me that close friends should butt heads, that every individual has a distinguished story, that there is much of the world that I have not seen? Where is the CMC that brought me closer to my peers, my generation? The opportunities I had as a freshman and sophomore to bathe in the voices of graduating seniors celebrating life and thinking about the future do not appear to exist for underclassmen anymore since the community is divided on our expectations, split by our agendas, and disconnected by change. It is as if the pockets of our community are growing further apart like a pool table increasing in size, thus changing the game. The CMC student body I entered into undoubtedly emphasized socializing and sprightly gatherings as students were motivated by each other to share experiences. People would amaze me back then; every day there was a show to be made. The student body that strides throughout our campus today has unfortunately dropped out of this gear, so that at night we do not light the LA sky like we used to.  We have become less of a collective that bonds around valuing a social life as we have increasingly grown more like an elitist, competitive community, and I fear that it is hurting us students and dimming my memories. Back then, any weekend Green Beach and North Quad were scattered with iotas of light, just as the noon sun specks the seas, everyone enjoying one another’s spectacle, everyone toasting the day.

In my fourth year, I’m conditioned to have high expectations for the spring months. I think of (RIP) Fawcett apartment my freshman year; my novel awe of CMC’s social situation; a 24-hour-party-sunrise-Red-Bull-and-beer cheers; TNRs that started the weekend early; family paella parties at the North Quad grills; running around campus barefoot and blissful; Mission Beach in San Diego; sleepless nights in Coachella Valley and the moon of day three. I think of all the laughs. I think of the faces of all my friends. Times like these kept me up and optimistic at night dreaming dreamy dreams in the dark of a dorm room. In old age, these recollections will shine bright. After past spring semesters, I always feel prepared for whatever turn is next, gathering my year’s growth and fruit, riding the emotional crest of this unforgettable time of my life. Sadly, I feel as if this spring will be different.

At night, the air finally felt chilled as breathing became sharp and visible. It is two days after Christmas and Boston’s erratic atmosphere was in its full swing. I was excited about being out from under my mother’s roof again, but ecstatic about rejoining with three CMC alums at The Sinclair in Harvard Square for drinks. I blew up upon entry seeing the table of three; although there’s something odd about new spaces illuminating old faces. Glasses in hand, we caught up. They all seemed to be doing great, I thought, as any big news was remarked and congratulated. I was glad. Effortlessly, Claremont came in and we rejoiced over our days together. The look in their eyes remembering our old wonders looped me back to freshman year and sophomore year. I thought about the whole gang and my position in it. Those days helped me build character that I will never leave behind and that no one can take from me. After a silent walk to the bathroom, I paused at the closed door in front of me and felt a warm thankfulness beam through me.  At the marble sink, I washed my hands and halted peering at the mirror to watch the moment blink with the eye. Looking forward, I felt excited thinking about my last run with CMC and felt hopeful that I’d always have some light in my tiny black box, as in the words of Marcus Aurelius, “No star wears a veil.”