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Going Back to Ol’ Nassau

May 30, 2011

In the last few days, Princeton has seen an epic celebration – a celebration of batch-mates meeting each other after years, a celebration of where they have reached in life. It’s been a celebration of the success of the graduating class, and a celebration of life in general.

I attended many of the events which were lined up for this weekend – as I had last year too. Tonight was Step Sing – a ceremony in which the entire class lines up on the steps of Blair Arch, and sings a medley of traditional Princeton songs and recent popular songs.

As it had been last year, it was a great experience. The entire class seemed happy, excited and full of energy. They sang for more than half an hour, and the audience (consisting of parents and other family members) sang along. That’s not what prompted me to write this post though.

Here’s what prompted me to write this post. Someday, not too long from now, I will be one of those students on the steps – singing the contemporary equivalent of Rebecca Black’s Friday – with around 1300 other class-mates. Seeing the members of the Class of 2011 so happy made me happy too. But  it also brought home an important realization.

When you are standing on those steps singing those songs, or its Baccalaureate and you are sitting in the Chapel, or its Commencement and you are listening to a great speaker, you are having a great time. However, I can’t help but think that these graduating students don’t also have a sinking feeling within them – the feeling that, in just a matter of hours, all of it is going to unravel, and in a matter of days, the entire class is going to disperse to different parts of the world. And this time it will be different – they are not going to come back in the fall.

I dread that moment. I think I do. The feeling of leaving Princeton – of knowing that those five days are your last days here – must be a terrible feeling. I can picture myself feeling it two years from now.

That feeling might prompt many students to try to live those 5 days like they have lived no other. Have as much fun as they can, meet as many friends and acquaintances as they can, click as many pictures and videos as they can, and make as many memories as they can. In those five days. And they do. But here comes my thesis.

Five days is not enough to live, enjoy, eat, sleep and breathe Princeton. Which is why I (we) need to make sure that in the time we have left here, we live our lives to the fullest. I know this sounds incredibly corny and cheesy but hey, it’s true. When I look back on the semester that just went by, I am not able to recall any five moments that stood out – five moments that I will remember when I become old and come back for my 50th reunion. I was so busy (or maybe pretending to be so) between my many courses – running from one place to another, finishing problem set after problem set, meeting a friend after a long time only to not see him again for weeks – I wasn’t living life, I was sleepwalking through it.

That needs to change. Grades are certainly important – after all, academics is our prime focus, as it should be. However, I hope that I (and my class-mates) in the coming semesters can generate memories that will stay with us long after we walk out of the gates. For some of us, those memories might consist of playing pranks on our friends and watching their priceless reactions, for some they might consist of studying beautiful natural structures under a microscope. For some, those memories might be simple time spent with their boyfriend/girlfriend. For some, those memories might consist of pulling several all-nighters with their friends, complete with 4 AM Wa trips.

Whatever those memories are, we need to watch out for them. And we need to grab them. This is the only time in our lives that we can live our lives the way we do. Let’s make sure that our remaining time at Princeton consists of great memories – memories that will cause us to smile when we think back on them years from now. Whichever part of the world we are in.

“Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.” – Steve Jobs

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