On a Tuesday evening in February, in the Mirror Room in the Castle, I saw a friend I had made in Paris. He stood at a table next to me, talking with classmates I sort of recognized.
Any other day, I would have waved as I passed him on the Green or given him a short nod in the Commons. I even may have said “Hello,” asking him how he’s been before heading off to class and then not see him again until another quick passing-by. Or, I may not have said anything at all and averted my gaze, clumsily unsure of how to be friends in the States rather than the City of Light.
But now, pressed for time with graduation so close, I walked over to him and conversation flowed easily, as if we were back in a Parisian cafe with a coffee and a croissant.
This moment of going back in the face of moving forward was one of hundreds among my class that night. Seniors and professors had gathered in the Castle on Feb. 18 to celebrate 87 Days Until Commencement, an annual Arcadia event marking the end of our undergraduate careers. We mingled with classmates, sipped drinks, and munched on hors d’oeuvres. Professors chatted with former and current students, asking excitedly of the future and giving life advice.
My friend and I caught up, but with three-and-a-half years of relationships to rekindle in only two hours, I left Paris and traveled elsewhere. I walked from table to table, revisiting my life at Arcadia. I went back to my first on-campus job tutoring mathematics freshman year. I spent 20 minutes with classmates I met at the Blue Comet a year ago, trying to remember what we talked about the last time we had met (we never did figure it out). I was taken back to those nervous first days in my freshman seminar, along with my attempts at improvising songs in front of then-strangers in my fundamentals of acting class and countless nights I had spent with friends doing nothing in Oak Summit.
Facing the end of our time as undergraduates together was all it took for the stresses of class and thesis and Capstone to dissipate. The we’ll-have-to-catch-up-soons exchanged throughout the semester at last were fulfilled, and the sounds most heard through the Castle were six syllables: “Do you remember when…?”
It was the same for the roommates I met in my junior year, the best friend I made as a sophomore, and the host of coworkers and classmates I came across that night. They were all lost in discussions of Preview and studying abroad and moments from Dilworth and Kistler.
In the midst of the reminiscing crowd, I saw a former professor. He held a glass of white wine and was looking for the student who had invited him. He stopped at my table to chat about what so many professors were asking their students: “What are you doing after graduation?”
I told him that I had no idea.
“As long as you have something to keep you going,” he said, “you’ll be fine, even if you don’t have the job you want. Even if it’s...learning Spanish or something.”
I think we all had a moment that night where we wondered what would happen after graduation. His confidence tempered my fears, at least temporarily.
But there were 87 days until then, so I walked across the room to find another old friend.