As I muster a deep breath in, sniffles ensue. I look around, thinking insistently about zipping up my coat and trudging back to Coles Tower. But instead of making the first motion towards my tan puffer, I stop myself. I close my eyes and open my ears. I hear the hustle and bustle of students, most of whom I no longer recognize, chatting about their Thanksgivings or typing heartily on their devices. The warm smell of sweet potato fries wafts from the pub. My eyes float open, and I see color all around me. Greens and yellows, the shuffle of bright sneakers and boots across the floor. I close my eyes again and cherish the scene I am taking in.
My head tilts back in laughter as a friend shares a mishap from the night before. I envision myself alongside them, trying to recall my perspective on the story. My ears tune out of our table’s conversation and into the clanking of dishes and the assorted conversations across Thorne. I look around and try to put names to faces, which has gotten harder each year. I see old friends in the faces of new students and hear inflections of old lovers in young voices. I finally begin to understand what people mean when they say, “They’re getting younger every year.”
The blankets beneath me act as a backrest while I settle into my viewing position. I peel back the tinfoil in my hands to reveal a steaming hot breakfast sandwich from our favorite spot. A feeling of warmth washes over me as I take the first bite. I close my eyes and embrace the feeling and reopen them to my friends doing the same. We share glances that mean we are ready to watch. We all tune our attention to the television, and I am comforted by the presence of my dearest friends.
My hands cup a warm mug of hot chocolate as I glance down at the scene in front of me. Like a movie, I scan from left to right, catching moments of joy and commotion from everyone. The toss of a die, the swapping of stories, the grilling of burgers. Each person fully invested in the moment. There is an overwhelming feeling of bittersweet emotion flowing through me.
In my last weeks as a college student, I have found myself stepping back. Not from activities or responsibilities, but from each moment in which I find myself. I am deeply grateful for the special moments and shared experiences that I have had here. I continue to relish the new friendships that have blossomed over the past year. And I often attempt to pinpoint what I will miss most about Bowdoin. Sometimes it’s simply the blissful silence of being in this space. Even amid loss and grief of both people and place, I find solace in moving on.
Zoe Stilphen is a member of the Class of 2022.