An exercise in gratitude: looking back on my college years

By LILY KAIRIS | February 1, 2018

So today is Monday, the first week of spring classes and, for graduating seniors like me, the start of our last semester as undergraduates. Some might call this “the beginning of the end.”

Growing up, I always imagined this time in my life would feel dramatic and pivotal. I pictured college as an incubatory, full-body transformation. In freshman year, my adolescent form would be shoved into a chrysalis, and for the four years that followed, I would be molded and polished until I eventually reached my peak butterfly form.

In May of senior year, at the ripe age of 21, I would emerge from the shell, spread my magnificent wings and head off into society with insurmountable power and confidence. No one and nothing could stop me.

I’m not sure what instilled this bizarre fairytale in my brain (hello, pre-college Lily, have you even seen The Graduate?), but evidently, this is not reality. College is no supernatural rebirth.

In fact, I am here to tell you a bitter truth — graduating seniors are not “adults.” Sure, we might have much better networking skills and more consistent hygiene habits than our freshman counterparts, but on the whole, seniors do not “have it all figured out.” Personally, I know I still have so much to learn about financial responsibility, healthy relationships and time management. In my book, there is always room for more self-improvement.

Although I may not have metamorphosed in college, I would not change a thing about these four years. Hopkins has brought me lifelong friendships; granted me opportunities for eye-opening research within the Baltimore community; allowed me to explore my artistic talents with writing and film; taught me diligence and independence; and the list goes on. My brother tells me, “you can’t truly reflect on an experience until it’s over.”

I know it might take me months of post-graduate ennui in order to fully appreciate the effect that Hopkins has had on my growth. But for now, instead of wasting energy worrying about the experiences I’ve missed or the clubs I never got to join, I have committed to spending my last four months of college focused on gratefulness. Hopkins — for all its stress — is also a place where I have found remarkable joy.

There have been raucous nights and whirlwind relationships, but also — just as important to me — there have been moments of quiet, comfortable bliss. Here are a few of the little blessings I have found at this school (I hope you can relate).

1. Afternoon naps in the armchairs by the windows in Gilman

2. Iced dirty chais from Brody Café.

3. Returning to the FFC as an upperclassman and suddenly appreciating what I once took for granted

4. A cappella performances (My little and my roommate are both in vocal groups, and seriously, it’s wild to me that I can see such incredible, talented humans perform for FREE.)

5. Walking through the woods behind Hopkins to get to Hampden (especially when it’s sunny and the dog park is packed)

6. The wonders of living on Guilford Avenue: all the colorful row houses; the man two doors down who plays piano on his porch; the Christmas lights in winter; and especially our next-door neighbors’ golden retriever, who always seems to know when I’ve had a long day

7. Concerts in D.C.

8. Receiving positive feedback on a story in a writing workshop (especially from another student who I secretly admire).

9. Wine nights with my sorority family.

10. Watching movies at The Charles.

11. Long nights “studying” with best friends, when suddenly we all descend into 3 a.m. madness, laugh about the most nonsensical things and probably end up rolling around on the floor

12. The theater community

13. Sitting shifts for A Place To Talk

14. Spontaneous deep talks with new friends

15. The mindfulness yoga class in the Mattin Center

16. Discovering new, delicious restaurants in Fed Hill, Mount Vernon and Fell’s Point.

17. Actually enjoying a lecture and sharing the lessons with friends to spark new discussions.

18. Participating in protests or marches in the city; meeting Baltimoreans; volunteering for the Poverty Lab

19. Dancing at Ropewalk on Friday nights

20. Working on film sets and interviewing people for my documentary series

21. Meeting underclassmen and feeling strangely wise and wonderfully nostalgic

I’ll stop at 21, in honor of my bizarrely old age and in an effort to keep from rambling. But simply the act of writing this has reminded me, yet again, that I’m going to miss this place.

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