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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

How to pack up four years of memories

<e is no manual for packing for those of us completing twelve terms. It’s been brought to my attention that The Carl, that illustrious publication I sadly never wrote for enough, has an article on packing for the end of the year. While I recommend the article highly, I still find myself distraught in an early stage of protracted packing, for good. I just started a list of items to bequeath to selected people, and will soon crawl back onto social media to hawk other items. This early effort is at worst a last full measure of procrastination in my undergraduate career. At best, my packing is pragmatic if managed properly. I prefer not to be wasteful, and I do prefer having Senior Week freed from chores. There are some plates and cups to leave behind, and a laundry rack too. Somehow, I will need to triage the library of books I amassed. The sorting has to happen eventually—why not now?

I look at some of these items in my room awaiting the sorting, and with many of them, a memory or two comes to the fore. A worn oven mitt, along with a little wok I bought from EconoFoods my first year to make a pot pie for a study break snack, bring to mind some improvised cooking sessions I had this last summer working on campus. Many mugs too have seen their use, from evening tea with friends that same summer, to red wine with more friends this past winter. I look out my window at my bike, which I’ve named in my head “Scheherezade.” (Its registration number, 1001, warrants such a name.) It may only be two years that I spent riding this bike, but my short bicycling adventures still play out in my head. To think it was just two weeks ago I had a morning jaunt to Dundas for breakfast, and yet it still felt like yesterday an old roommate sold me the bike on a rainy Friday afternoon junior year. I can still remember the shape of my aghast face to find no brakes on them – it was one of those bikes one needs to back-pedal to stop!

There are untold numbers of binders under my bed, still stuffed with problem sets that both demoralized me and built me up, the notes losing their legibility as each term they were written in progressed. The jury is still out on their eventual fate, along with the readings and syllabi and books of many classes I continue to think about to this day. I glanced at my bookshelves, at the titles. The Power of Babel? Now that was a wonder of a class, Introduction to Linguistics, first-year winter, where I got intrigued by the sampler of topics I did not expect beyond questions of etymology that first drew me to the class. (That was also the winter term of that polar vortex only seniors can recall in 2014, for every winter since then has been balmier every year.) How about this title, The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic? Everyone’s got their moment of serendipity in classes. Mine was taking Arabic, only to stick around for a few classes more after the regular sequence because it turned out to be meaningful and fun. That dictionary happens to be next to A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics, for a class whose memory brings forth a sigh. Junior winter taking Quantum Mechanics was much more than I could handle, among many reasons, and I wonder to this day why I persisted through my major.

Whatever becomes of any of these items, I know I won’t let go of a manila envelope with postcards, mailbox notes, every card that came with every Friday flower I ever received. There are words of thanks and good luck, holiday wishes, messages that say “I missed you,” even a “Happy Wednesday!” I forget why that one Wednesday was important, but it must have been a better day with that note. And then there was that One Card that came with a slide whistle that still sits on my desk. That nifty gift makes a B-flat sound until you push the slide up. Each time I play with it, I think back to what seemed ages ago when it was only three years ago, when I became part of the lives of the friends who gave it to me—when they became a part of mine.

I thought I was ready to leave on the first day of classes this term when I sat through each of my classes and felt nothing new, no starry-eyed anticipation. Today, I still am. There is more to be done in life beyond being here, and I know I was always fated to be a transient member of the community in the end. There’s no going around that many of us would sooner leave, mindful of the ways this community—this college—had failed them—and it fails me too by failing others. To be off the Carleton clock would be nice. Of course, as a professor told me once at dinner, “when you come to a certain age, you’re never off the clock!” A lot of us on June 10 will be pretty much at that age, if not already, and are willing to roll with the punches in the new roles to play and the new communities to be a part of.

Be that as it may, I am not ready to leave either. There is no manual for packing up a life from here, deciding what we take with us and what we leave behind. That’s because what we take away and leave behind have already been decided for us in what we did, in how we acted and lived, and how others did the same for us. We’re not stuck merely with souvenirs.

Bearing all of this, that question now begs itself: given all of what you’ve seen and felt, what will you do now? I don’t know quite yet the answer, but I’m damned certain it’s going to have to draw on the memories and experiences I carry onward. And it will not only be conscious of the person I leave behind, but of the people I plan to bring with me too, whoever they are from this messy yet motley patch on Earth, from these four years.

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