‘Forever Is Composed Of Nows’: Jessica Myers’s Senior Column
In theory, I know that I graduated almost two weeks ago already, and that I’ve already received grades for my last finals at Penn State. I realize that my classes ended three weeks ago, and that my graduation photos are somehow now a thing of the past. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, everything has not caught up with me.
I don’t know when all of it will hit me. Like, maybe I’ll break down into tears tomorrow, or maybe, in the stark lights of a grocery store, buying things for my new apartment, I’ll finally feel like a graduate. My summer bar hopping may be soured by tipsy emotions, or maybe I won’t quite feel it until I’ve packed up the last box and I return my college home key to my landlord’s front door.
My life is currently up in the air, occupying a strange area of space between realization and preparation. My time at Penn State is conclusively over; I’m lucky to have plans for the fall, but have yet to worry about those quite yet. As I’ve been walking through campus, meeting up with friends before we all disperse to the so-called real world, I feel strangely both entwined and out of place.
Having grown up here, born and raised in State College, every part of me is desperately excited to get out of central Pennsylvania and experience anything. I’ve been a part of Penn State for longer than most graduates have — I grew up bleeding blue and white. I loved to go to football and basketball games from a young age, the Creamery was always just a five-minute drive away, and I, along with the rest of the townies, sighed with relief when those darn college kids finally moved away for the summer.
Then, seemingly in the blink of an eye, I grew up to become one of those darn college kids, and now I’m moving away for much longer than the summer, and it still hasn’t hit me.
I am an incredibly proud Penn Stater. Through all that the university has experienced, and regardless of how much I’ve changed in the past four years, I have grown with Penn State. I will always stand by its side and joyfully rep that blue and white. However, I didn’t always want to go to Penn State — my mini teenage rebellion hit during senior year of high school, and I applied to eight colleges. I got into half of them. Yet, somehow, I ended up choosing what I knew, what I’d grown up knowing, and I’ve never made a better decision.
For me, my childhood and Penn State are seamlessly blended, somehow one and the same. In the same thirty mile radius, I transformed from kindergartener, to high schooler, to Penn Stater, and I’m only realizing now how unique that might be. Leaving Penn State feels like leaving home, because they are the same.
Penn State has been my home my whole life.
JoePa seemed like a close family friend, and going downtown was always incredibly exciting. Webster’s Cafe has known my usual drink order since I was a freshman in high school, and I’ve run into various family, teachers, and friends downtown on more than one occasion. Childhood and the beginnings of adulthood have blended together in the oddest, most beautiful way.
I graduated from State High the same way I graduated from Penn State — in the BJC, on the floor, amid countless caps and gowns (although, at State High, girls wore white). As I sat at the BJC, waiting for the College of Liberal Arts to call my name, I had a surreal experience of deja vu, the notion that I’d been there before, for the exact same reason.
This was not just a graduation from Penn State; in this place, in this way, my graduation was one from my childhood, from my experiences in State College, and a striking and emotional push toward my future that will exist outside of both Penn State and State College. I was about to embark on something I truly didn’t know — how to live without Penn State, both physically and symbolically.
I only teared up once during graduation — amazingly — and it was as everyone stood arm in arm and sang out our alma mater. I looked up at the friends and family, and glanced at my friends who surrounded me, everyone moving in harmony.
When we stood at childhood’s gate
Shapeless in the hands of fate
Thou didst mold us, Dear Old State
Dear Old State, Dear Old State
This verse never rang so true, and, for me, that helped to close my chapter at this incredible university.
Of course, my chapter with Penn State will never be fully closed. Perhaps the life that follows is simply an epilogue, an addendum, to these amazing past four years. I’ve learned so many lessons at Penn State: I’ve learned what true friendship feels like; I’ve fallen in love. I have become my own person, independent and strong and unique, and have discovered the importance of opinions, as well as thoughtfulness toward others.
This is quite a timely reflection on my years at Penn State, as this weekend, I am actually shipping up to Boston. I’m ecstatic to be attending Northeastern University this fall, and to live, for the first time, in a place that isn’t Happy Valley. As I’ve been packing up boxes from both my apartment and my childhood home, I haven’t been getting emotional. Instead, going through everything I’ve collected and accumulated throughout the years, I’ve simply been incredibly sentimental, and thankful for all that I’ve seen and done.
I’m happy to have someone in my life who is both my best friend and my love, who never stops supporting or encouraging me. I’m also happy for my many teachers and professors, who have shaped the person that I am today, and who are to thank for so many of my realizations and ambitions. The large family that surrounds me is loving, and hilarious, and perfect in all the imperfect ways.
To the friends that have lasted me many years — Viv, Schmidt, Blaise, and Josh — and to my brand new friends at Onward State, who are so ridiculous and welcoming, I’m so happy to have you all in my life. You make life something to smile about, to laugh at, and to never take too seriously, and that is so necessary and amazing.
More than all else, I am so thankful for my parents. They are two of the hardest workers that I’ve ever known, and are more inspirational than I can express. They both taught me how to think openly, how to live passionately, and how to keep my arms and heart accepting of the rest of the world. I truly wouldn’t be where I am without them and their amazing sacrifices, and, even if I were given many moons and lifetimes, I could never thank them enough.
I am leaving my childhood home, my whole family, and the past 21 years that I’ve spent with Penn State as my backdrop. But with me I am taking experiences, memories, and love that are enough to last a lifetime. The future no longer seems scary, or intimidating, or even far off in the distance; I will always be embracing the future, always on the heels of what’s to come, constantly seeking, wishing, and aspiring.
Emily Dickinson once wrote:
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –
I will let these next months dissolve into one another, and allow this year to exhale into the next, and as Penn State slowly transitions into something else, it will simply be a new now, a new forever — and, in the midst of trying to catch up, I will pause, and I will revel in it.