It has been a period of profound reflection as I and many others grieve a loss in our community. But I write this week rather about a thing we as Knox students have a tendency to take for granted: the permanence of our time here.
As a senior, I’ve spent a lot of time considering when I will reach the exact end: When will it be the last time I hunker down to write a long essay in the Red Room? When will it be the last time I unlock the door to my off-campus apartment? The last time I sit down with my advisor to discuss my progress as a writer? In a way, I think I expect Knox to remain exactly as I see it at any given moment despite the increasingly imminent prospect of graduating. But the fact is it won’t.
Whenever somebody asks me why I chose Knox, I simply say, “the people.” It’s not inaccurate, exactly, but it’s worth remembering that “the people” are Knox’s least consistent aspect. There have been days, months in fact, when out of personal hurt I harbored pretty extreme resentment toward large chunks of the Knox population. Yet it’s still that same population by which I have felt consistently embraced, uplifted and inspired during the course of my years on this campus.The raw truth of it is that what I mean by “the Knox population” is completely different from what those around me mean when they conceptualize it. The raw truth of it is that next year’s freshmen will know almost none of my graduating class and thus their understanding will be shaped by utterly different factors.
Friends will graduate. Friends will transfer. Friends will scatter across the globe to follow their dreams because these are Knox students we’re talking about here, people who believe that their dreams are tangible, accessible. Friends, horrible as it is to admit at any time and especially for those grieving a loss today, will pass away. And so I am writing this to take stock in my own and my friends’ lives of the people who are more permanent to Knox than we, the students, people who are impermanent as all humans but whose presence makes all the difference when we fail or succeed, flop or fly.
This is a “thank you” to my advisor, without whose wisdom I would be less myself. This is a “thank you” to the head of every department I’ve ever taken classes in, without whose dedication I would be unable to interact as deeply with the world around me. This is a “thank you” to professors I’ve loved and loathed, without whose perspective my own would be lacking. This is a “thank you” to the maintenance staff, without whose selflessness I would never have felt at home here. This is a “thank you” to all academic support staff, without whose determination I would have suffered a lot more scraped knees along the journey toward my degree. This is a “thank you” to the administrative staff, without whose care I would have no Knox to feel so frustrated, so changed, so honored by.
We attend a flawed institution. We have problems and grievances which are justifiably infuriating. I do not always like the school I pay more than $50,000 a year to be educated by. But I do love it. I do so often take it for granted.
Take a moment today, this weekend, this month, whenever. Take a breath. Remember why you chose to be a part of this community, remember those within it you never want to forget. Reach out to them in the dark of this blustery winter. Reflect on what is permanent and what is not. We’re all going somewhere someday.