Lately, I’ve been thinking about what’s making me nostalgic before I leave. Why do I get misty-eyed sitting in Frary? It’s certainly not the chicken apple sausage (albeit, their brunch is spectacular). Why do I get weirdly choked up gushing about my favorite college course or, while giving a tour, have to restrain myself from babbling on about the time Zadie Smith came to the Athenaeum? What am I going to miss and why am I going to miss it? These questions have rested at the heart of my senior spring.
CMC is, without a doubt, one of the best things to happen in my life. The reason for this is the people. The Ath, research institutes, classes, and TNR (RIP) are all fantastic tentpoles, providing the backbone for CMC. But, the fabric that holds it all together is the students and community, and within this: friendship. This friendship is not explicitly the kumbaya ooey-gooey, warm fuzzy friendship. It’s the friendship that helps us learn and become better, fully-formed humans, and exposes us to the difficulties of growing up and learning with others. Such friendship and connections are imperative to our growth and journey. We surround ourselves with an interesting, driven, engaged, and passionate bunch all living in the 91711.
It’s the moment of sharing a part of yourself, a deep inner truth with another person and having them hear you out. The process of storytelling and finally saying those words out loud and having someone else understand them — that’s what makes us human. In this moment of utmost vulnerability, we also see empathy and growth as the aftermath. I’m now thinking back to all those conversations, while running to class, between snack, or drunkenly after a party, that completely changed every notion I’ve previously held; the ones that pushed me to do something different — confront a fear, take a risk, be honest with myself and others.
I can’t put a price on realizing I’m leaving CMC different and better — more self-aware, braver and happier. And I owe it all to the people who surround me more than myself. It’s those memories and those moments of complete honesty and understanding that defined my CMC experience. Just because sometimes, it is enough. Just because we can have fun and seek this human connection trumps finishing that paper two hours early.
In the most liberal arts way possible, coming up just short of parody, Hannah Arendt helped me understand why this friendship is so important to forming and shaping us. There’s something irreplaceable about such kinship and connection — that deeper level of understanding that makes you feel complete. I’ve learned more sitting on the Appleby benches having a heart-to-heart with someone than I did in my entire Comparative Politics class.
Aside from becoming a liberal arts cliché, reading Hannah Arendt’s words in a seminar (even more cliché) on friendship and politics made me finally understand how friendship and community are interwoven at CMC, and how this is so important to fellow students’ and my growth.
When reading that “community is what friendship achieves” and friendship allows one to become “equal partners in a common world,” I felt as though she summed up how I viewed my friendships at CMC. College is certainly not easy. And as we face hardships or forks on the road, we can turn to a variety of coping mechanisms and with others, we can not only endure but also thrive.
At the risk of sounding too optimistic and naïve, Arendt writes that “when one heart reaches out directly to the other, as in friendship” acts as an oasis, and without these “we would not know how to breathe.” As we move further into our own spheres, we realize how to be more self-sufficient, but what helps us along the way is the companionship of others.
For me, I don’t think I could have survived freshman fall without my WOA leaders or even people who vaguely knew me from my dorm offering to listen and chat. I credit someone I wasn’t that great of friends with for talking me out of transferring my freshman spring. They didn’t even know me that well, but sat with me for hours and talked it through and convinced me not to. It’s not so much what they said, but the fact that they were so willing to do so that made me stay. Looking back, it’s hard for me even to like the freshman year version of me. I’ve changed. My skin tone has gone from Casper-white to porcelain. I call “highways,” “freeways.” I drink mate. Surface-level aside, I wonder how freshman me even survived without feelings of complete self-loathing consuming me. I wanted so much, but what I wanted was ratification, striving towards things, and the surface-level sense of satisfaction of getting something. I thought that’s what I should come out of college with: accolades, praise, titles, grades, internships — things that I could use to justify four years here. That nameless March night on the North Quad bench encapsulates how I feel about CMC. This institution, for whatever reason, hinges on social connection, and while we get bogged down in all the things to do here, it’s the person-to-person aspect that I’ll remember and cherish.
It’s scary, sad and confusing to know that I’m about to leave CMC. It’s a place so intimately intertwined with its populace, a populace that shaped me. When I get asked if someone should go to CMC, I say yes, then pause. Yes, if you want to be constantly challenged and at the same time, held so warmly and closely by a group of people that seem akin to (or even closer than) family. Yes, if you want to thrive with others who have a zest for the word and want to learn — both formally and informally — with you, not next to you.
So thank you CMC and thank you CMCers, from students to faculty, and staff… Because of you and my interactions with you, I’ve learned to uncover and convey parts about myself that I would never have otherwise. If I can come out of college as a person I finally want to be, that is worth more than its weight in Ath chocolate-covered strawberries.