This is the last piece I will write for The News-Letter. In my two years of involvement, I have written about international tensions and public health issues, how much I dislike Mulan (2020) and how much I appreciate Taylor Swift’s two recent albums. So it is hard to decide what to include in my final piece as a proper tribute and closure to my time at Hopkins.
I don’t want to write a cliche article about my departure from Hopkins or the pandemic (and how it has ruthlessly wrecked all my plans). Nor do I want to brag about something positive the struggling has brought me — some eureka moments that have shown me what really matters, possibly. I have every right to pat myself on the back for such extraordinary growth, which stems from loneliness and grief, shattered ideals and broken dreams and self-acceptance with a dose of self-love and the firm belief in a ceaseless pursuit of happiness.
But no, not today. My farewell article should be something more epic, more extraordinary, more eccentric.
For a graduating senior like me, no words, expressions or prose could be sufficiently organized to summarize my undergraduate odyssey: two years at Boston University, one semester at Hopkins, followed by three semesters at Zoom University.
I will soon be leaving Hopkins, putting a hesitant, unprepared period at the end of my undergraduate academic life. But the thing is, this realization didn’t hit me until I received the email invite to write for The News-Letter’s commencement magazine. I guess time slips by more fugaciously when all my interpersonal connections are through a laptop camera, 12 hours away from all the cautiously masked yet wildly celebratory events on campus.
As a transfer student, my time at Hopkins has already been shorter than that of a lot of my peers. Since my arrival in Baltimore, I’ve been rapaciously collecting memories like a Scrooge with a stashed safe or an enchanted dream catcher hanging above a 10-year-old. Picnics at the beach and carnivals at Keyser Quad with friends; career fairs and club fairs with totes upon totes given away; a field trip to the local wastewater treatment plant; Meatless Monday tofu with all its protean protein cousins; club meetings and bake sales to sweeten things up; friendships and, in some way, survivorship.
I remember the dinner with my transfer mentors and fellow transfer students at a small, elegant restaurant in Inner Harbor, during which we shared both laughter and flavor. I remember the exam seasons (which are all weeks excluding the first two of a given semester) and cramming in Brody (where everyone crams at) with Taylor Swift blasting in my earphones and a stressed, caffeinated heart thumping with enthusiasm.
I remember Rec-Center sweat sessions on an elliptical with a classic Stephen King paperback positioned on the rack because girl gotta find time to read... I remember the Blue Jay statue in front of the FFC that seemed to have different apparel every couple of days.
My heart has become an overflowing sink with too many things to address and too many people to thank at commencement, a speech that has been planned out and rehearsed thousands of times in my head. Yet the pandemic changed everything: The sink became stuffed with used masks and cancelled flight tickets, stifled frustration and resurfaced anti-Asian hostility. Long story short, I cannot be at the ceremony that commemorates my hard work and invaluable struggles.
That’s why I cannot easily write this article, as I don’t know how to feel about an uncrowned ending. It’s not the lack of thoughts, but rather the overwhelming abundance of them that intertwine rampantly in my head like a ball of wool that has entered my cat’s territory.
But one thing I am certain of is that the only good ending to a difficult story is an open ending, like Monica and Chandler moving out of their signature apartment and each of the six friends setting foot into their new lives. I don’t know how I want my story at Hopkins to end, but I’m dead sure I don’t want a How I Met Your Mother or Game of Thrones type of unresolved, forced finale. Unfortunately, the storyline follows a strict logical sequence and temporal schedule, and my show at Hopkins is inching into its final season.
I don’t want my graduation to be the end of some transient moments of joy, youthful audacity with adequate foolishness and the right to explore and err fearlessly. Rather, I hope it to be the beginning of something destined for greatness and uniqueness.
What matters and stays with me, likely for the rest of my life, is the knowledge of the earth and humans around me; the willingness to work hard for something I truly want, be it an A, a diploma or an amelioration of climate change; the passion and compassion for those around me; the confidence that “what can’t a brave Blue Jay do, now that I survived Hopkins?”
Instead of the princess and the Blue Jay living happily ever after, the princess learns from struggles and confusion, leaves her boring comfort zone and excessive complacency and leaps into her lifelong pursuit of truth and happiness.
I’m ready to graduate and see what her sequel looks like.