Well, Class of 2014, this is it – we can no longer delay the inevitable. We are graduating, heading off to uncertainty, jobs, more school, internships, and/or hiking the Appalachian Trail. A few of you are even getting married. Adulthood has come to collect us.

Do you remember your first day here? I sure do. I arrived intending to transfer after a year. However, while waiting in Park Lot for freshman check-in, I saw jugglers on unicycles, rapidly followed by the Midnight Ramblers. My interest was piqued, for Rochester students seemed much quirkier – and far more interesting – than the school’s polished advertisements had suggested. Once classes started and I was assigned one hundred pages of political science reading for the first week, I also realized that I’d gotten into a most rigorous school. I entirely forgot about transferring as weeks passed.

It took me six weeks not to get lost in the tunnels. I also avoided parties at first, and I made plenty of awkward memories as I tried out various clubs and conversed with new people. A friend counseled me well during those first few weeks – don’t be pressured to join clubs, do as much or little co-curricular activity as feels right, and know that awkward freshman memories will be humorous by summertime. Those life lessons are worth remembering as we all move to new homes and forge new relationships.

Today, I have a pretty diverse friend group, and the prospect of going to a party doesn’t bother me anymore, as long as I know a few people in the room. I have also explored the larger city, getting to know young professionals, adults, and students from other colleges. I’ve grown into a more accepting person, more open to pluralism and more comfortable around difference, thanks to hundreds of late-night conversations, Danforth meals, video game duels, dance classes at the Tango Café, music jam sessions in Spurrier Gym, and 3am runs to Jay’s Diner. My professors have helped in this process, too, by introducing me to books and arguments that challenged my unquestioned assumptions of how the world worked.

The biggest lesson I have taken away from college is not to be frightened by what is different or sometimes discomfiting to be around. Indeed, it is by openly embracing the differences, and the questions, that we mature.

Much has changed in the four years we’ve been here. Hillside is now a convenience store, not a place for discussing big questions over paninis at 5am. We arrived when Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and “Alejandro” were on the air, and we leave with Pharrell Williams at the top of the charts. The word “cloud” now has both atmospheric and digital connotations. Steve Jobs is dead, and the Harry Potter franchise has been retired, for the time being. Nonetheless, many things remain constant. We arrived with construction underway, and we leave with construction ongoing across our assorted campuses. Out in the larger world, the Republican Party is still throwing every last procedural roadblock in the path of President Obama’s domestic agenda. The economy continues to hurt us, driving up tuition, credit card debt, and income inequality, while the wolves of Wall Street remain largely unprosecuted. Greenhouse gases and carbon emissions remain a menace, causing long term droughts, lower crop yields, and extreme weather across the globe.

We need to be aware of these flaws in our society as we commence our adult lives. According to our best environmental scientists, life is going to get tougher in the next sixty years – the time during which we will lead our careers, find our partners, and raise and educate the next generation. If we are to provide our future children a world that is ever better, then we must retain the ideals and strategies we have learned at college. Study hard, but also play hard. Discipline your mind and body, yet beware of overly fixed routines, which might deprive you of the time to let your mind wander and have some fun. Embrace the contradictions and complexities of our postmodern society. Do your part to contribute to your community. Most importantly, preserve the love of learning and research that you have developed as a UR student. George Eastman was right to say that the world’s progress relies almost completely on education.

As I look back on the last four years, I recall such vibrant memories – themed Orientations, game-changing friendships and academic rivalries, love affairs, sports tournaments, pressure-cooker capstone seminars and lab sessions, Meliora Weekends (especially 2011’s epic celebration of school progress), challenging homework assignments, and more. Certainly, there were struggles, and illnesses, and times when I felt burned out. Surely, you know these feelings all too well. Yet we have made it. We are ready to depart Rochester as full citizens, ready to take on the world and perhaps make the lives of others a little better. It has been a privilege to study here for four wonderful years, but I refuse to believe that these four years will be the best of my life. Much lies ahead.

My time as a Rochester student and a Campus Times writer is done. I am packing my life into boxes and moving to Philadelphia. As I prepare to depart, I recall the words of the late poet and UR professor, Hyam Plutzik:

“Out of my life I fashioned a fistful of words.”

When I opened my hand, they flew away.

Gorman is a member of the Class of 2014. 



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