Leaving and Letting Go

Posted by Aubrey Kinser

Still I’m waiting for the knowledge that I’m graduating to sink in. One month from now, I’ll have attended my last class at UTD. I’ll be packing up my books and clothes, selling all my furniture, having farewell lunches with friends who will soon be scattered to the four winds, trying to squeeze in time for the museums and parks that I’ve been meaning to visit since freshman year. Final exams and project deadlines are beginning to loom. Every person I bump into asks me what my plans are, and I scramble to remember what I told myself I would say after the last time someone asked me that.

How can I prepare to leave UTD? When the time was approaching that I would depart from Brunnenburg, from Rome, from London, from Orléans, I revisited my favorite places and tried to fix them in my mind, tucking the sights and sounds and smells away like flowers pressed in a book. I’ve often reopened those pages and found the memories as bright and fragrant as before—the toll of church bells in Dorf Tirol, summer roses blooming against ruins of an ancient empire, trees trailing their branches in the Loire like girls with their toes in the water. Now, as I walk across campus each day, I wonder what memories of UTD I’ll return to months and years from now.

I’ll remember the sunrise over the soccer fields, that big expanse of sky across from our apartment that becomes a canvas for brushstrokes of rich color and flakes of gold leaf, soon painted over with bright blue. I’ll remember those hoarse-voiced grackles, with their puffed-up squabbles and oil-slick iridescence. I’ll remember weeks on end of beating, beaming sun, glancing off of glass and mermaid scales and rows of tight-packed cars. I’ll remember squinting to read the t-shirts hanging in Green Centre, and racing to claim an empty picnic table between classes on good-weather days. I’ll remember proud young magnolias all in a line, and reflecting pools that don’t reflect anything, and nighttime clouds glowing browny-purple from the city lights.

It can be hard to find something to fix my memories to when so much is changing on campus. I returned from my year away to find unfamiliar buildings around the old corners, walkways ripped up and waiting for new concrete, and cranes swinging their skeletal arms against the sky. And just in this past year, my trusted routes have been blocked by more construction; the garden that was the highlight of my daily walk has been moved to an out-of-the-way spot, and fresh roads have been laid down while new walls have sprung up. If so much can change in a year, what will campus be like when I return five, ten years from now? Will the memories I’m storing up be refreshed by the return to these familiar scenes, or will the things that have stood for UTD in my mind have passed away?

Yet it’s the nature of our sapling university to send out fresh new growth each year, even as its roots nestle further into the earth. The memories themselves will last, pressed between their pages, even when the changes come. My chapter here is coming to a close, but UTD is meant for better things than to grow dusty on a shelf; new students will take up the pen and leave their mark on the story of our university’s coming-of-age. When I come back, I’ll see how each new class has transformed this school, shaping it into something just a bit brighter and better for the next generation of students. As much as I love what our university is, I can hardly wait to see what future classes will make of it.

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