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Exactly three years ago, my new friends and I made a promise to each other. My new friend Fiona was told by my new friend Bubba that he had been Shrek the ogre the previous year. At more than six feet tall and shoulders as wide as a doorframe, he fit the character well. “Shrek and Fiona! We gotta do it!” he decided within two minutes of learning Fiona’s name.
The group that was there to hear Bubba’s insistence never forgot it, and at the beginning of our senior year, my friend group decided we couldn’t let freshman-year Bubba down. Fiona got her costume ready, my five-foot self was told, not asked, to be Lord Farquaad, my other roommates got ears and a hat for Donkey and Puss in Boots, and their boyfriends were forced to be Gingey and Dragon.
We had our plan set to dress up as characters from Shrek on what Juniata dubs “Halloweekend”, the weekend before Halloween. First though, I had to be again reminded that I had somehow been at Juniata for more than three years.
October 30th was Senior Day for the Juniata Women’s Soccer team. Before our last game of the season, we had a small ceremony before the game. I walked with my parents through a tunnel of my teammates, received flowers and a framed plaque of my previous Juniata jersey, and heard my four-year stats and kind words from my teammates over the loudspeaker. I was met with fun decorations as I walked into our team locker room. Four tables filled with food met me after our game was done. Handmade scrapbook pages of funny memories and encouraging words were ribboned together in my locker. I felt a lot of love from my teammates and their families, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had grown three years older and wiser without my own permission. I cried a few tears but left our home field very full and very happy with arms full of gifts. I’ll be a mess after next semester’s lacrosse senior day, but I also imagine I will be happy looking back on my four year journey at Juniata, within athletics and outside of them.
My friends and I have come a long way from our freshman selves, but I am so glad we’ve been able to keep our freshman year promises. We are finishing seasons, completing high-level research, reflecting on internships or studies abroad in real-world job interviews, telling new students about that time we had that professor and got that grade, and all other sorts of things we had promised ourselves we would get through but didn’t quite know we would. Senior year forces us to think a lot about the future, but there’s nothing wrong with reflecting on how far you’ve come and how old you may have gotten.