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ISSUE 117 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/14/2004

Off she goes, with reflections on years intact

By Annie Olson
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 14, 2004

Last week, while I was strolling down a hallway in the music building, an unidentified professor loudly blurted from behind me, Youre going to have to walk a lot faster if youre going to walk in this hallway. It had been a terrible day, and that was the last strawI had been taken by surprise. My jaw slacked. I was angry, confused and embarrassed all at the same time.

Instead of smartly quipping a response that would bite him just as unexpectedly and meanly as he had bitten me, I sat down on a bench at the end of that hallway and cried. Dont worry, I didnt give him the satisfaction of seeing me: he was long gone. Hed hurried down the hallway and into an office.

Walking around campus as a senior, I find myself having strange rushes of sentimentality and memories. The only thing holding me firmly in my shoes, and preventing embarrassing emotional outbursts of crying or laughter, is reminding myself that I have just enough time left on the Hill to slowly reflect on it all. Im not graduating tomorrow. Im remembering to reminisce about the past, and that I dont need to worry about a sudden change in my life. Leaving college shouldnt be dramatic.

Like all natural stages in life, one stage of living should gradually bleed into the next. Birth can take hours and hours. Death is usually dragged out much longer than most would want. I feel like a wobbling toddler climbing steep stairs for the first time. I dont want anyone to hold my hand; I just want to climb out of here on my own time.

Drastic changes leave people feeling alone, vulnerable, and scared. Id much rather ooze out of St. Olaf like toothpaste out of a tube than like someone shot from a cannon at the circus. Sure, the cannon has its appeal: its exciting, its showy, it gathers a huge crowd, tickets are sold, pictures are taken, but its not nearly as natural or mundane as the ritual of squeezing toothpaste out of the tube and onto my toothbrush each morning.

Leaving should happen slowly; otherwise, we might be left with the feeling that wed like to do it over again. I want to be given time to turn to my next stage in life at my pace, not at anyone elses. Im angry at that unknown professor who hurried me along a hallway that I was slowly enjoying. He doesnt have the right to hurry me down that actual hallway, any more than this college or anyone at it, has the right to hurry me out of this place where Ive grown up for the past four years.

So what am I telling you to do? Should you walk around, hugging every senior you know? Should you ask senior students to tell you stories about their time on the hill, and then loyally sit down at their side like a golden retriever, lapping the stories up as if they were an incredibly scrumptious dessert? Should you, perhaps, stay up all hours of the night just to spend time listening to the seniors on the campus breathing wise breaths? No.

What I am trying to say is that its important to give the seniors you know space. Were afraid, were expectant, were hopeful and were nostalgic all at the same time. Its not that most of us will react to orders or questions with unexpected emotional outbursts, but weve got a lot going on underneath the surface that many people probably forget about. Were looking for jobs just as much as were looking for new things that will help define who we are. How can we give back to the world when we dont have any money left? How can we get involved in things were passionate about when we dont have the time? Were looking for careers that fulfill our vocations, or looking forward to grad schools that will further our learning and our growth.

Most of all, we really have no idea what were doing. Were ready to get out of here, but we dont want you to tell us to leave. So just dont push us. Well leave eventually. Most of us just need to warm up to the idea of it first. There is something incredibly, luxuriously calming about taking a deep breath, holding it and slowly exhaling. Taking the time to consciously think about breathing reminds us to slow down, relax and reflect.

Remember that this college can operate like a lung, gently exhaling learned students in the spring, and inhaling new green students in the fall. Its a natural process, and you cant rush it.

Contributing Writer Annie Olson is a senior from Oakdale, Minn. She majors in environmental studies.

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