I am a semester away from graduating.
Honestly, even writing out that sentence feels weird. It seems unreal. Something I’ve dreamt of since I saw my parents’ college graduation photos is about to (hopefully) come true next May. Whether it’s in person or on Zoom or Minecraft, by this time next year, I’ll have a Hopkins diploma with my name on it. I’ll be able to say that I graduated from a top university and that, even though it’ll be the hardest thing I’ve done so far, I did it.
As amazing as that sounds, it also means that, by this time next year, a lot will have changed. By this time next year, I’ll be halfway through my first gap year, hopefully with a job that is a stepping stone to a future career that makes me happy. By this time next year, I probably won’t be in Baltimore, and I might not be living with my closest friends anymore. We’ll go from seeing each other every single morning, sharing laughs over pancakes and overdue assignments, to seeing each other every couple of months at most and sharing more FaceTimes than anything else.
The love may stay the same, but the situation will change. Time is moving constantly, and I’m not very sure I’m ready to face it yet.
I actually first started thinking about the idea of time flying this past Thanksgiving week. I came home to Miami for the holidays and, like every other break from college, I was really looking forward to seeing my little brother. Key word here: little. But when I came home, the little kid that I’d always slow-motion hug (“like in the movies, Isa!”) was no longer a little boy. The slow-motion hug had to wait for a few days while I got tested for COVID-19, but not even a 6-foot distance could hide the fact that my baby brother was definitely no longer a baby.
When I finally got to hug him, it was confusing. Here was the same kid, with familiar curls, cheeks and innocent smile. His head still smelled the same way it did when we’d snuggle as little kids. He still obsesses over Minecraft, superheroes and Super Mario. He was just... a lot taller. Like, up to my chin taller, and he’s only 11 right now. At this rate, he’ll probably grow up to be the tallest sibling. It’s as if my brain had forgotten that time doesn’t freeze back home when I leave. Life goes on, and my little brother is no exception.
It’s funny that I am just now realizing how much time flies, and how quickly it does so. This can be a really overwhelming thought, and honestly, as I write this, I need to stop and center myself. All my life, I’ve tried my best to make sure that no moment of my time is wasted. I really try to make time for work, relationships and, more recently, for “me” time. But with a semester left in college, I want to be able to say that I enjoyed every second of it.
Now that I see 2021 around the corner, and my little brother growing out of his old pajamas, I really need to take a step back and appreciate every moment. I need to appreciate my friends and how much they care about me, appreciate being home, playing video games with my little brother and having my older brother here for the holidays. I especially want to appreciate conversations with my family and with my abuela, whom I definitely don’t call enough. As much as I don’t want to let these moments go, they will one day. And that’s something I need to be okay with.
It’s important for me to come to terms with the fact that, regardless of whether I want it to or not, graduation will come and things will change. Accept the fact that time is totally and completely out of my control. I just need to hop in for the ride and make the most of it. That’s all I can do.
Isabel Rios-Pulgar is a senior studying Neuroscience and Psychology from Miami, Fla. In her column, she discusses her intersecting identities and how they play a role in her college experience.