I’ll be honest: I don’t know how to do the graduation thing. It’s not the wear-a-cap-and-gown, walk-across-the-stage part that perplexes me. It’s more the aftermath: the friends-leaving-forever part.
Of course, we’ve all done it before. I still remember the goodbyes during the summer after my high school graduation. My friends and I gathered the evening before the first of us departed, letting it sink in that a phase of our lives was truly complete. At the time it felt momentous.
Those were friends I’d known for the better part of a decade. Why, then, does it feel somewhat more devastating to depart from people I’ve known for less than four years? I know, at least, part of the answer. In high school, we all hung out at school or in each other’s houses. In college, we shared not just classrooms but also homes. With our families suddenly hundreds of miles away, friends became the closest people we had.
The person whose absence I will feel most heavily is my freshman-to-senior-year roommate, Sofia. After reading her biography on our Class of 2022 Facebook group, I tentatively messaged her. She seemed nice enough — we bonded over our hatred of Advanced Placement testing and our interest in neuroscience. Both of us, apparently, had also always wanted to pick up the guitar. (Neither of us has learned a single chord in the last four years.)
In a few months, we moved into the sixth floor of Wolman Hall together. At 1 a.m. on the first night of Orientation, we both sat in our half-lofted Wolman beds, sporting pajamas, rumbling stomachs and homesickness.
“I heard the mozzarella sticks from UniMini are super good,” I said to her.
She raised her eyebrows. “I’m down.”
She was, I soon learned, always down for anything. By the end of our first week of roommate-hood, she was wearing one of my dresses to convocation. By the end of the year, we had climbed our way up to the clock tower, hosted numerous study sessions in our tiny room and almost set Wolman on fire after an unfortunate ramen incident. Our Homewood apartment during sophomore year was full of similar shenanigans until the pandemic sent us home for more than a year.
We somehow picked up right where we left off when we returned for our senior year. Resolving to make the most of our truncated college experience, we cooked and baked together more, binged TV shows, played trivia, took long walks and had more of those late night/early morning conversations. We also had our first major disagreement. After all, it’s impossible not to get on each other’s nerves sometimes when you live together, but we realized those things fade into the background if the person matters enough. And to each other, we mattered enough.
As Sofia leaves for Boston to teach, and I stay in Baltimore for the next year, what I’ll miss most is the day-to-day mundanity of our lives. I’ll miss making fun of her inability to open cans. I’ll miss her picking up the ukulele and singing the “Ripped Pants” song from SpongeBob Squarepants (if you know you know). I’ll miss the back and forth of deciding what we’ll bake next, seamlessly working together in the kitchen and then devouring our creations. And, if I’m being completely honest, I’ll miss how clean she always attempted to keep our apartment. Doing life with her meant being fully comfortable, always.
Now, I’m left to spend a year in a city painted with memories of our time together. Every building on campus is where we both slept through a class and every place off campus is somewhere we first discovered with each other. Most of all, the room next to mine will no longer be a place I can go to show off a new dress or steal a couple of Tic Tacs. It will no longer house the friend who became the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister.
So, the graduation thing. Crossing the stage will mean gaining a diploma but also losing a familiar way of life. Still, I take comfort in knowing that Sofia and I will always be in each other’s corner in spirit if not in person. Perhaps a little less comforting, though, are the impossibly high standards I now have for any future roommates.