This column was published as part of the Commencement Issue for the Class of 2015.
If you’re reading this, it’s too late — classes are over, campus is empty and we never got the chance to say goodbye. It’s tragic, really. We don’t remember if we crossed paths at Myrtle. We never made a move at Last Chance Dance. We were too busy smiling for pictures and showing Grandma to the nearest bathroom to share a moment at Commencement together. But maybe later we’ll send a message, sometime after we settle into the quiet of the ride home, but before we begin again at work or school: Hey, sorry I missed you! See you soon?
We might reach out, but we still won’t say goodbye. We won’t let ourselves. Despite all of the unnamed, inexplicably nuanced emotions we experience every day, we don’t have the words for goodbye. We avoid addressing the reality that we may never see each other again because it’s awkward or it doesn’t matter. And, for many of us, that’s okay. We’ll see each other soon. We never really knew each other. We tell ourselves goodbye is just a formality we’ll have to repeat if and when we see each other again. And maybe it is.
But we deserve more from each other. We are classmates — part-time citizens of a place that has profoundly changed our lives, a place we share. Over four years, we’ve become each other’s friends, acquaintances, enemies and everything in between. I’d be remiss if I didn’t show my appreciation by saying goodbye to each of you, individually:
To my friends: I’ll be least likely to say goodbye to you. I take you for granted and don’t apologize for it nearly enough. I’m sorry. I’ll FaceTime you, visit you in your new apartment, in your new city and be there for your wedding. We’ve lived in JE, we’ve traveled to New York and DC and we’ve vacationed in Mexico together. We’ve worked in the Admissions Office, hung out at the House and taken the same poetry classes together. We’ve stayed up, writing papers, dancing at Toad’s and talking about the future together. We’ve shared things about ourselves that we never imagined anyone else knowing, and we’ve done things that have hurt each other so deeply that we never imagined being able to be forgiven. Thank you for saying it’s okay. Thank you for saying, “I got you.” Thank you and goodbye.
To my acquaintances: It’s likely I’ll say goodbye to you by coincidence. In the moments when we make eye contact through the window at Blue State, when we nod from the opposite sides of Elm Street, or when we run into each other with our parents and feel compelled to awkwardly introduce everyone — goodbye won’t be an empty gesture. Although we exist on the fringes of each other’s lives, your warmth established the atmosphere we’ve called home for the last four years. We walked the same way to class on Mondays and Wednesdays. We squared off and made secret rivals of each other on the IM fields. We made small talk at that party that one time. We are friends of friends of friends, and can still acknowledge the roles we played in each other’s lives. Thank you for saying hi. Thank you for saying, “How are you?” Thank you and goodbye.
To my enemies: I never thought I’d say goodbye to you. Maybe enemies isn’t quite the right word. What do you call people who think you are jealous, insecure, ignorant, and/or generally unpleasant? What do you call people you’ve wronged and who are justified in their disdain for you? Some of you are people that I used to know. We interviewed for the same jobs, we asked out the same girl, we have the same friends. We, almost certainly, checked our phones whenever we walked past each other. We used to be in love. Some of you are people I don’t actually know. We are rumor-mill minted caricatures to each other. We listened to our friends condemn each other. We observed each other from afar and knew immediately that we were diametrically opposed. We spent too much time consumed by how little we think of each other. What do you call people you feel sorry for? Thank you for saying, “I hate you.” Thank you for saying nothing. Thank you and goodbye.
And to everyone who’s a stranger — we never got the chance to say hello! Hi, my name is Alonzo, and I am proud to be a member of the Yale College Class of 2015 with you. Thank you for saying, “It’s nice to meet you.” Thank you for smiling back. Thank you and goodbye. We will take this next step together.
Alonzo Page is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College .