This time of year — the second semester of senior year — can be tough. There are theses and snow and midterms and nostalgia and more snow. It’s cold, it’s bleak and we can at times find ourselves wishing for graduation to come a little more quickly.
We are not yet at the point of lasts: the last day of classes, the last finals and, for senior athletes, the last games. These moments still remain far away and out of sight, buried beneath piles of snow and sheets of ice.
It is easy to wait until Senior Day to start to get sentimental. The nostalgia kicks in, all of the hours of sweat and hard work are momentarily forgotten, any last bits of pain melt away and we all at once begin to miss the things we never thought we would (at least this is how I imagine it; I will let you know for sure when I get there).
I am a senior on the softball team and, though I like to think that I do not fall prey to this trap, I can see that at times I do — everyone does.
It can be hard to always keep the end in sight and appreciate every moment along the way. In fact, it might not even be possible. But along the way, before all the lasts, are the last firsts: the last first morning practice, the last first bus trip, the last first time you put on your uniform.
It’s important to recognize these last first moments for a few reasons. By recognizing the last first, it’s easier to appreciate all of the moments that have led to that last first and all of the moments between that moment and the last moment that is yet to come.
A few weeks ago, my fellow seniors and I had our last first 6 a.m. practice. Since then, it is not that every morning practice has seemed easier or necessarily more fun, but there is something different. I have had the opportunity to appreciate the time spent with 19 of my closest friends playing a game, regardless of the hour. I have realized that there will be very few times in my life where my only goal is to hit a ball with a bat as hard as I can. And even if, in the moment, I am looking forward to the end of these morning practices, the last first has helped me realize that I will in some small way miss them when they are gone.
This brings me to the second reason it is important to recognize the last firsts. The last firsts bring us back to the beginning, to those first firsts. They show us how far we have come, how much we might have changed and how some things will always be the same.
That last first time your cleats sink into the dirt at the beginning of the spring will feel just as good as every other first time. When you look around the field as you take the home field for the first last time, you will look around and realize that many of the teammates that were there for your first first time have come and gone, but there are still a few who have been with you through it all.
The last firsts remind us of all the firsts we have had and all of the moments in between. They help us to appreciate all the moments that follow. And, most importantly, they prepare us for our lasts, allowing us to reflect on them, knowing that we made the most of it all.