The time has come, and I think I am ready.
I was lucky to have found great student role models very early in my Boston University career. Larry invited me, a perfect stranger, into his universe without a second thought (I still say he’s the reason I never left the School of Education). Katie was a natural leader with a mile-long resume, but I could see that the most important thing to her was being a good person, a good friend. Neal commanded a room without having to say a word, made things happen through sheer force of will, easily won my respect. Sandy could always put words in just the right order to make me think and reflect, and to make me feel like I belonged. Adam talked big and dreamed bigger, and silly things like doubt never slowed him down.
The mentor, the friend, the general, the creator, the dreamer. They were more than that, of course, but at the beginning it was easiest to boil things down to their simplest forms. Among the newcomers who looked up to these people, it became a fun game to predict who would be The Next. Which of us would assume those titles when we grew up? Who was The Next Katie, The Next Sandy, The Next Neal?
Gradually, the game became less fun and more of our way of defining ourselves in this world. I realize now how dangerous and unfair that was.
It was dangerous for us, the young ones, who had expectations for ourselves based on impossible ideals. It was unfair to the role models, who had their entire lives reduced to those same impossible ideals. And I wonder if, now that I am at the end of my time at Boston University, that game hasn’t changed much.
I know that my peers and I have done good work for this school, leaving it better than we found it. I have tried to be as good a role model as I had three years ago, and I am absolutely confident in the people that I leave behind. But now and then I have caught myself thinking and talking about this new generation as The Next, and I wonder if they have been doing the same thing to themselves.
After these words are published and the last hours before graduation have ticked away, none of this belongs to me anymore. That’s a hard truth, but something I have forced myself to accept. The things that I helped to build or mold in my time at Boston University become a piece of a memory, and the living parts are left in the care of people who aren’t me or any of my peers. They will be built and molded into things that I couldn’t possibly have imagined, that another me would never be able to create. Any comparisons, any proclamations of The Next, sabotage those efforts.
So the time has come to move on from Boston University, and I think that I am ready. I will miss the Charles River Campus terribly, but I know that the things that I cherished while I was here are safe. They are in the hands of people who can make them better.
I know that they will.