From the Desk Of Colin Perry, Editor in Chief
The other day, I was having class outside in the amphitheater, where other students and I debated the complex ethics of (among other topics) self-plagiarism, personas versus people and public shaming. Behind us, some students from Mason Hall were practicing in the courtyard, so an impromptu string soundtrack gave dramatic heft to our discussion. I was struck by the thought that I am probably never going to be able to have an experience like this again.
I’ve joked for a while now that when I think about graduating, I’m really thinking about dying, but there’s a kernel of truth to that sentiment. (I promise this gets better.) In a few days, I will be trading most of the life I know for something else: a scary and vague concept called “actual adulthood” where the possibilities are endless. Everything I’ve done in my life has led to this point, which only makes me feel horribly unprepared and anxious for what comes next.
I think it’s normal to feel like this, to an extent, whenever there is an ending, and graduating is the end of something — not the end of actual life, but the end of a kind of life I’ll never have again.
Kurt Vonnegut, my all-time favorite writer, said near the end of his actual life that he was weary.
“I’ve written books. Lots of them,” he said. “Please, I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do — can I go home now?” Vonnegut is my favorite writer because he has taught me much on what it means to really be a human being, but on this one, I admit we have to differ.
While I, too, am weary after eight semesters of readings, essays, articles, group projects and, oh yeah, 27 issues of a weekly newspaper, I don’t really know what he means.
Home is in my office, with my messy desk and a staff that unconditionally feeds into my manic whims. Home is in one of the downtown apartments I’ve lived in, where the sounds of drunken hordes are as natural as the wind or the rain. Home is at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where I’ve learned and loved and lost and lived. You saw this cliche coming, but I don’t need to go home because I’m already here.
In many ways, Fredonia was never the place I wanted to spend my college years at precisely because it was already sort of home. I’ve lived in the area all my life, and by high school, I had already compulsively listened to enough Bruce Springsteen to recognize that I wanted to leave. But life got complicated, and I ended up taking what I deemed at the time to be the path of least resistance. Four years after the fact, I am beyond glad that I did; a town full of losers, it is not.
When I look back on these last four years of my life, I am happy. I am sad. I am happy-sad. I am not shocked that it went by at the pace that it did, but I do wish there was a little bit more. I am glad I got the chance to learn big words and to sit in seminars on everything from video games to Dante. I admit that I’ve learned more about myself than I wanted to. I am missing everyone and everything already. And I must recognize that, four years later, I have no idea what I am doing, but I am starting to think that that’s OK.
Before I go, Vonnegut also urged his readers to “notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
In that spirit, here are some things that come to mind for me: the friendships I have forged over the years with people whom, I hope, know they are intrinsically good; the nights spent stumbling on sidewalks in pursuit of pizza; a life-changing study abroad experience in London, where, among other triumphs, I successfully defended the U.S. in a dance-off at our favorite pub the night before we left; the quiet winter afternoons spent bundled up in blankets, watching a bad movie with someone important at my side; being able to learn from too many generous and brilliant minds to list, but here’s one anyway: David Kaplin, Christina Jarvis, Raymond Belliotti, Bruce Simon, Shannon McRae, Ted Steinberg, Steve Kershnar, Chris Pacyga and the most decent person I know, Elmer Ploetz; the responsibility of leading The Leader, to oversee a complicated organization in the attempt to transform it into the sort of place and publication I knew it could be; looking back on every issue of the paper I’ve put out, even the bad ones, and being enormously proud; typing these words while I sit at my messy desk.
If this wasn’t nice, I don’t know what is.