In Marina Keegan’s essay “The Opposite of Loneliness,” she perfectly captures the feelings I’ve felt in my last year at Auburn.
She describes this “opposite of loneliness” feeling as not quite love” and “not quite community.” She continues to say “it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt.”
Coming to Auburn, I had no doubt that I would have the college experience of a lifetime. It’s not the football, or the red brick buildings or the classes I’ve taken. It’s the people. The thought of leaving Auburn gives me a knot in my stomach because of the people who have shaped me, challenged me and encouraged me.
My high school English teacher encouraged me to read Keegan’s essay and all of my senior year, I felt the anxiety of not being able to replicate the feeling of safety and comfort that came from a network of close friends like the ones I had in high school. I cried on my graduation day because I did not want to go for fear of never being able to feel the way I did in those moments.
I never could have imagined that what I found at Auburn could even compare to what my high school self was scared to leave.
It’s the late nights in RBD as a freshman “studying” with all your friends on the third floor.
It’s staying until the alma mater at a football game in the rain.
It’s the flowers left on your doorstep to celebrate and the kind and encouraging messages to comfort.
It’s getting excited about your favorite cover band play the same songs every weekend and everyone still yells the lyrics.
It’s standing on the concourse in brightly colored campaign shirts in all kinds of weather.
It’s piling in a pickup truck dressed in dumb costumes on the way to a fraternity.
It’s the community built in your freshman dorm that follows you to your senior year apartment.
It’s reserving a table for fourteen at one of the many Mexican restaurants and eating too many chips to count before the meal.
It’s being late to class because you stop and talk to multiple friends on the concourse.
It’s hearing your name called at Cater Hall and the cheers that erupt.
It’s not hearing your name called at Cater Hall and the tight hugs and outpouring of love that follow.
It’s all of the “lasts” that come every day of your senior year.
For me, and so many others, Auburn carries “this elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness” that can only be felt during that poignant moment that washes over you and you think, “dang, I’m going to miss this place.”
Our time at Auburn is only the beginning, though. There’s a reason it’s called a commencement ceremony. We are just beginning. This foundation of community we’ve built at Auburn will stay with us long after we’ve received our diplomas and far into what the future still holds.