“Comes a time when you’re driftin’, comes a time when you settle down.”
Neil Young’s distinctive ragged voice echoed through my head as I soaked in the scene around me. A Blacksburg sky turned radiant orange by the setting sun, bathing the Drillfield in light as students filled the grassy expanse with soccer and the joyful sounds of youth. In my earphones, the wistful harmonica melody of “Comes a Time” — Young’s reflection on the journey of life — seemed more poignant than ever as I watched this youngest generation of Hokies frolic around campus.
It's their campus now, I thought. Not mine.
I was wandering the Drillfield in search of a cure for writer’s block. After several unproductive hours staring slack-jawed at a blank document, I had decided to let Virginia Tech itself be my muse with the hope something on campus would remedy the creative emptiness. Surely the school to which I was writing goodbye could offer some final morsel of inspiration.
Farewell columns are a tricky proposition. You have to simultaneously pay tribute to the experience you’re leaving behind and gaze forward at an unknown future, all while attempting to rein in the inherent schmaltz that comes with the territory. I feel a bit like a fish out of water, juggling these elements, seeing as my writing usually downplays earnest emotional reflection in favor of snarky pop culture references and boob jokes.
Even if I suddenly acquired the eloquence of Fitzgerald and the insight of Hunter S. Thompson, the challenge remains daunting: How can you possibly do justice to four of life’s most meaningful years in one column?
I still don’t know, but for one last time, I’m going to give it the old college try.
“Comes a light, feelings liftin’, lift that baby right up off the ground.”
Four years ago marked the end of the first phase in the class of 2012’s journey through life. While many of our childhoods had already met untimely demises the moment Jar-Jar Binks waddled onto movie screens, high school graduation was the official expiration date of our youth. Regardless of where we went afterwards — work, military, further education — society now expected us to contribute.
Members of the class of 2012 have been lucky enough to make a collegiate pit stop on our transition to adulthood. Whether college tuition is paid for by parents, student loans, yourself, or any combination thereof, we are among the fortunate few in the world given the chance to attend an institute of higher learning. That Tech ranks among this country’s most prestigious universities only further illustrates our blessing.
Many of us take this experience for granted, no one guiltier than myself. Looking out beyond the Drillfield at the armada of Hokie Stone buildings in the distance, I feel a pang of regret for not treating school more seriously. What so many times seemed just burdensome “college,” was really the opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t consider it an opportunity squandered — an undergraduate degree is nothing to scoff at — but I’m sure there will be moments ahead where I think back to skipped classes, half-assed projects and lectures spent surfing Facebook and wonder how much more could have been accomplished.
Those voices in my head will never linger long, though. Not when so much else was gained in four short years.