I always knew leaving Juniata would be my hardest goodbye, but having the last two months of my senior year taken away has made that goodbye so much harder. I had no idea that as I eagerly packed my 2008 Honda CRV for my spring break trip with my friends to Georgia, that those would be my last moments on campus as an undergrad. I hugged my roommate goodbye, ironically packed the lightest I ever have in my life, and didn’t look back as I drove away, thinking that I would return to campus in just ten short days.
I didn’t know – nobody did.
As I sit in self-isolation and watch as the world seemingly turns upside down, I can’t help but think about all that I left behind that night.
Aside from most of my clothes that I didn’t pack in an effort to travel light, I left behind so much more. I’ll never sit in a classroom surrounded by familiar faces, and participate in open dialogue in my Communication courses. I’ll never have a Sunday morning brunch where Buffy from Parkhurst always insists on making my scrambled eggs herself. I’ll never stay up until 2 am on a weeknight just enjoying time with my best friends, and afterwards only having a short walk down the hallway back to my room. I always knew these things were going to come to an end – I just thought I had more time.
We seniors all thought we had just a little more time to experience these moments, to gather our closure, and prepare to continue our lives elsewhere, with the satisfaction and pride in knowing our time at Juniata felt complete. So much has been taken away from us that we will never be able to get back. I am struggling to cope with this loss.
However, it’s almost like Juniata has unintentionally prepared us for this. Weird, right? Our Juniata community was never about physical proximity – we didn’t look out for each other because we lived so close, we didn’t advocate for our peers just because we saw them every day, and we certainly didn’t love one another only because we shared the same shipping address. Our Juniata community stands strong because we foster love, empathy, respect, compassion, and understanding across borders and time-zones, and we rise above adversity because of the core Juniata values we all share. As we are surrounded by contestant uncertainty in these times, this is one thing that will never change. No matter where we live or learn, we will always be a part of the Juniata community. Always.
This is what keeps me hopeful. Ordinary life has seemingly stopped – but I consider it just a pause and that we Juniatians will play our part in moving forward.
So, what happens next?
The extraordinary. We adapt, we stay flexible, and we remain resilient. We continue being Juniatians from a safe, social distance and utilize our privilege of technology to continue our education. We share the hashtag #JuniataStrong to show our support for one another for all the world to see, and most importantly – we learn. We become stronger students, better friends, and we become kinder to ourselves. We take a step outside of our lives and spend time in nature, we bake that cake with our parents / guardians that we forgot the taste of, and we remember the smallest parts of what makes us human. When the world presses “play” and we return to life as usual, we will be stronger than we were before. That is the Juniata way – we choose to take control of the uncontrollable, we make the most out of what we have.
As much as I wish for things to be different, I am forever grateful for what my college has given me. We may have lost our last moments on campus, but we are gaining so much more. I am leaving Juniata as a confident leader who not only can adapt to the unknown and remain hopeful in times of fear and doubt, but I can also successfully wear the only outfit I packed for weeks on end as I wait to move out of my dorm. Although I don’t think I ever would have been ready to say goodbye to Juniata, I am eager to find my next place in this world where I will continue to live a life guided by same energy that screams down the halls and wakes everyone up at 5 am when it’s Mountain Day, the same energy that willingly sleeps in a tent on the quad for a week in freezing temperatures, the same energy that made this goodbye so unimaginably hard.
To my Juniata community – stay safe, use this time to heal, and don’t forget me… Uh, I mean, don’t let these circumstances make you forget why you chose this school to begin with – continue to be a Juniatian, wherever you are. I am eager to see you all again sometime soon and will forever carry with me the memories, lessons, and moments that can never be replaced. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Juniata.