Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 23, 2024

Closing a chapter: Holding onto the familiar, making room for the new

By GABRIEL LESSER | April 26, 2024



Lesser tells how his trip to Rio with his college friends allowed him to mix the familiar with the unknown and says his goodbyes to The News-Letter.

I’m sitting here writing my last piece for my column in The News-Letter, and I am at a loss for words. I’ve thought about this moment for a while: what I’d write in my last piece, where in my life I’d be and what closing words I’d share. 

While the last four years have shaped who I am and influenced who I have become, I’ve come to the realization that, at my core, I’m the same I’ve always been: discovering myself through my writing and growing from my experiences.

I look back at this photo above: it’s of me sitting on Arpoador Rock in Rio de Janeiro, a place I’ve been coming to see the sunset with my family for ages. However, this past spring break, instead of coming to Rio with my family, I was here with friends from college. I was really excited for the trip, but also slightly worried to see what my friends would think of a city that I’ve loved my whole life. I was scared “Rio wouldn’t be Rio” without the familiarity of staying at my grandparent’s apartment and following my traditional routines with my family.

Nevertheless, I’ve come to learn that life is about mixing the familiar with the unknown. I had never taken any of my American friends to Rio before, and seeing the city through their eyes gave me new perspectives and amazing experiences. Further, showing them the sunset on Arpoador, a nostalgic experience near and dear to my heart, brought me so much comfort, connecting me to my childhood and all of my memories here with my family. 

Reflecting on my memories, I think a part of me is scared of losing my identity with new, unknown experiences. Ever since my grandma passed away last year, coming to Rio has been marked with immense grief. I marvel at the wonders of this beautiful city yet at the same time I deeply yearn to see my grandma, my vovó, in the corners of her apartment, on her on her favorite reclining chair or at the dining room table. Rio now holds a complicated dichotomy of emotions for me that I’ll never quite be able to describe, but these experiences speak to my struggles with transitioning and moving on from loss.

In the same way that I have been scared of losing my family experiences in Rio, I’m scared of losing my outgoing college self as soon as I graduate. Despite this fear, I’ve luckily come to learn that that’s not how life works. Instead, I’m an amalgamation of all of my past experiences, of all the people I’ve ever loved and of everyone who has made an impact on me. For instance, my grandmas have both always taught me to unapologetically forge my own path, while my grandpa has always taught me to value the importance of the people I surround myself with. I get my emotional sensitivity from my mom, my sense of humor from my dad and a sense of belonging and trust from my sister. All these factors play a key role in who I am today.

Whether it’s nostalgic dinners from my childhood surrounded by my uncles, aunts and cousins, or meaningful new adventures with my friends from college, like this trip to Rio, all these memories form an all-encompassing mosaic of who I am as a person. I carry these people and experiences with me everywhere I go, and I will continue to do so as I move into this next phase of my life.

From writing, I’ve learned that life is about absorbing everything around me and gaining perspective as I grow up, keeping elements of the familiar but at the same time making room for the unknown. 

I started writing for The News-Letter in the fall of my freshman year (during the peak of the unknown) and it’s surreal to be here now on my last piece as a graduating senior, looking back on all the time that’s gone by.

I started this column to express my feelings about starting college during the COVID-19 pandemic. I wrote about the necessity of keeping an open mind to the unknown and paired it with the joys of apple picking, in my first piece, titled, “When life gives you apples, make apple pie.” Since then, this column has been a constant outlet for me to communicate my feelings, learn from my experiences and shape my identity. I’ve written about homesickness during my first weeks on campus, nostalgia and saudades for my childhood, grief from the loss of my grandma and gratitude for my family and friends. I said “Goodbye to Hopkins for now” when I studied abroad and “Welcome back” when I returned, reflecting on my insights from the months in between. I titled my column “The Road Lesser Traveled” to represent my explorative journey through college, paired with reflections from my childhood and lessons from my upbringing.

I’m so proud of it all. Thank you so much to The News-Letter for giving me a place to express myself as a writer — the joy it brings me every time one of my pieces is published is indescribable. And here I am now, saying goodbye one last time. Or, as I prefer to say, closing a chapter, because the truth is, I’ll never stop writing. This journey continues, with whatever the future has in store: a mixture of the familiar and the unknown. Here’s to exploring more of “The Road Lesser Traveled.”

Gabriel Lesser is a senior from Westchester, N.Y. studying Neuroscience and Romance Languages. His column explores his memories, along with his current reflections and the lessons that he has learned.

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