Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Learning as I go

A reflection on college and everything it brought my way
Gina Lopez

A note I wrote to myself in the drafts of my phone titled “Senior Columns –– say something insightful” has sat idly, waiting for me to do just that.

For minutes and hours and days and nights, I tried to pinpoint the moment where I felt a shift. Where I felt the change between a misguided underclassman improperly dressed for the library wind chill to an emotionally mature and cunning upperclassman, soon-to-be-adult, soon to be starting the rest of my life.

Sitting on the bus, amidst a sea of students in a variety of coffee shops, laying on the floor of my bedroom at midnight and leaning up against the wall in line for lunch or more coffee (or probably both), I stalked the senior columns of those older and wiser than me.

“They must have had some better advice to offer than I do,” I thought.

Similar to the feelings of misguided self-doubt I felt in my first real week as arts editor down at the Massachusetts Daily Collegian (something that was like an internal string of evasive moments of paranoia surrounding my lack of experience), I longed for the inspiration of those a year my senior.


“Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory” was the quote I chose to accompany my senior picture in my coveted hardcover high school yearbook prior to graduation. At the time, I thought it was equal parts wistful and nostalgic –– in hindsight, I realized, much like the photos of our early pre-teen years left on Facebook to torment us, sometimes a sentiment does not get better with age.

College has been like a blanket that’s seen me through some previously unthinkable hardships. Lost friendship, lost love (and lost loved ones), the heaviness of consistent financial struggle as an independent student and run-of-the-mill class-related anxieties.

It’s been like the child-sized flotation devices in butterfly shapes that they have at public pools — safe and often essential, but not particularly comfortable or flattering, regardless of your age or experience level.

So, as I shake loose my floaties, I’ve all too quickly come to realize that I’m staring into the face of deep and dark open waters. The waters of uncertain adulthood. An uncertain timeline. An uncertain trajectory.

Trying to pinpoint exactly why this very idea is so threatening feels like running backward up a hill –– it leaves me bruised and altogether in the same place I started, but emotionally and physically exhausted all the same.


 Everyone’s a mess

 This is one of the most quintessential college lessons I’ve learned. Whether it be emotionally, physically, psychologically or everything in between, no one knows what they’re doing in college. I would argue that’s the point of the whole money-hungry institution –– acquiring some level of measured self-preservation through the muddled process of trial and error.

Everyone is making mistakes all the time –– and in the process, doing the best they can to become a better friend, roommate, coworker or partner. Most are well intentioned, I’ve found.

In my last year of college, and these last few months especially, I find myself wondering what the difference between being self-conscious, self-actualized or self-aware actually is. When’s the moment when you become the “you” you’ve been planning and dreaming up this whole time?

But the fact of the matter is there’s no race, because what constitutes the finish line? A seasoned career path? A family? Some loosely defined terms of personal happiness?

As I round out the last couple weeks of my undergraduate career, I’ve begun to realize that none of those things really matter.

And as cliché as it sounds –– and most definitely is –– I know nothing about my future plan except for my ideas of what will bring me the most happiness, and yet those details are the most significant.

Regardless of what’s to come, one thing will always ring true in the waves of college nostalgia –– some of the most fulfilled, most intelligent, most altruistic, most passionate people I’ve ever met live at the heart of the Collegian.

So while where I’ll work and I how I’ll build the rest of my life remains a mystery, I feel an unwavering sense of sureness in the fact that I’ll be hard-pressed to find a group of people as extraordinary as them.

Gina Lopez was the arts editor and can be reached at [email protected].

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