Today, my first-year roommate sent me a video.
I hit the play button and was immediately transported back four years to move-in day. There, before me, was our dorm room in Morgan 4, Sue B.
The memories flooded in like it was yesterday.
I remember my first night in our dorm. I could hear the music from a party on the third floor. Across the hall, people were chatting with their new friends. As I listened to all the exciting sounds, the only thing I felt was fear.
I was scared of not making new friends, scared of losing touch with old ones, scared of not doing well in classes, scared of being independent.
I cried myself to sleep that night. I found out later my roommate had also cried herself to sleep — she was scared, too.
A new chapter of my life was starting, and it was riddled with uncertainties. Worst of all, it was starting at a school I never wanted to attend.
I was blinded by what other people from my town thought about UR. I’m from Rochester, and the reputation UR has at my high school is that it’s a safety school for top-tier students. Most students apply with barely any intention of going. UR’s just another college they can add to the list they’ll post on Facebook of their acceptances. I planned to transfer out after a year.
So, I erased all of the pictures from move-in day that night in my dorm. I wanted no memory of it, because I thought UR wouldn’t be my home for long.
Deleting those pictures is one of my biggest regrets. The snobby attitude I had towards anything related to UR quickly turned into admiration.
These past four years have been better than I could have ever expected. I’ve made lifelong friends and memories that I’ll hold onto tightly. I’ve become more educated on what I am most passionate about. And above all, I’ve grown a great deal. I’m no longer that same girl pictured on my first University ID.
But I’m not done. I had more growing to do in these last few months of my college career. Growing that I wanted to do with the Class of 2020, and not while isolated in my childhood bedroom.
Being from Rochester, I used to love going home during my undergraduate years. I had a bigger bed, a private bathroom, and a home-cooked meal 20 minutes away.
Now, knowing everything I do, I’d go back in a heartbeat to that cramped Sue B. dorm, even with the occasional cockroach in the shower.
I wanted more time to say goodbye to my friends, to my professors, and to the college I’ve grown to love. I wanted to shake my favorite professor’s hand after graduating and thank him for all that he did for me. I wanted to wave to my family and friends as I walked across the stage, finally retrieving that small piece of paper I had worked so hard to achieve over these past four years.
For the Class of 2020, our moment to walk that stage will happen — just not when we expected. While the entire atmosphere may feel completely off during virtual graduation, I’ve got a prompt that will get you in a nostalgic mood. (Courtesy to professor Jim Memmott for the idea.)
On May 15, find your first University ID — the one that you took on your first day at UR, when the weather was unbearably hot in Rochester, and you thought everyone was exaggerating about how cold it could get.
Do you remember the moment the camera flashed, and your ID was first handed to you? How about when you showed it at your first frat party? Or when you dropped it in the tunnels as you ran to an exam or lost it in the snow while sledding? Did you ever have to get a new one after leaving it behind at Late Night Douggie or an off-campus restaurant in Collegetown?
Did you trade your ID in when you turned 21? When you were asked if you wanted to take a new picture, did you?
You may have chosen not to retake the photo — leaving the picture of you from your first-year on it. By choosing to keep your old photo, you were already unconsciously memorializing your time at UR.
Even if you stumble upon your ID decades from now, that picture will always be a reminder of how you felt and looked that day, frozen in time as a defining moment of your life.
So, pull out your ID and take a good look at it. Smile, cry, or just reflect on that moment of yourself suspended in time when college was an entire four-year journey ahead.
Now, think about the present time. Would you change anything?
I would change just one thing. I wish I could go back and say yes to every time my friends had asked me to hang out instead of making an excuse that I was busy. Instead of watching that new Netflix show, I’d visit them more often. I think when we finally have an in-person graduation, I won’t be most excited to hear my name or feel my degree in my hand. I just want to hug the people who were once strangers to me. I want to tell them that I did it. That we did it.