I’ve never been one for drawn out or emotional goodbyes. But, given that this is the last article I’ll ever publish in the Yale Daily News after three years of writing here, I would argue that taking a few hundred words for a bit of self-indulgence certainly isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done in this paper.
The feeling of loss or confusion that accompanies graduation for seniors like myself is a lot like a professional athlete’s retirement. No, not the Brett Favre kind, where you come back, go somewhere else and send a picture of your genitals to a co-worker, but one where you’re really, sincerely finished and never coming back. If there’s one thing I love doing, it’s comparing myself to famous athletes, and so many of them have struggled to move forward with their lives beyond sports just as I have struggled with the uncertainty of leaving college.
While part of that certainly stems from love of the game, there is an element of fear inherent in the challenge of placing a formative portion of life squarely in the past. I think that’s something I’m struggling with and something many of my peers are too. Fear can be paralyzing, and much like athletic greats who just can’t seem to move on, I think that we all deal with instances or shifts in the fabric of our own lives that cause us to freeze up.
I have no reason to be anything but honest about my own feelings. I don’t know where I’m going to be two years from today or even two months from now. But I can’t let that uncertainty drive out my own happiness, nor should you fall victim to a similar sense of dread. When we leave Yale, none of us will get extended retirement tours like basketball great Kobe Bryant or cycling legends Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, but the pomp and circumstance of such events serve only to cover up a fear that all men and women, even the great sports stars who are heroes to people like me, are forced to contend with. Part of me doubts that Michael Jordan ever feared sinking clutch shots in the playoffs like he dreaded his final minutes wearing number 23 in a packed arena.
When we learn lessons from sports, we not only learn about moments of triumph and defeat but also witness men and women, however unconquerable they might seem to us, coping with the same sorts of problems with which we must all contend.
While I did not enjoy my four years at Yale as much as Jordan or Bryant might have loved playing professional basketball, I still fear moving forward in my own life. It is an emotional experience knowing that these are the last words I’ll ever write for the News and that my own time here at Yale will amount to no more than a sentence, hastily scribbled in the margin of a rich tome’s worth of history.
Our heroes might have left legacies of magnitudes we’ll never equal in places we’ll never reach, but fear of leaving things undone or grandiose ideas of scaling one more mountaintop, touching one more life or hitting one more shot should not be allowed to prevent us from moving forward, growing each day and pursuing our passions in new and exciting ways. Be grateful to the people who helped get you where you are today, but don’t let your own preconceived notions of nebulous obligations or expectations prevent you from reveling in all that you have achieved at this point in your life and all that you may excel at going forward.
I’ll never get my lap of honor around the Arc de Triomphe, like the Tour de France greats that I love and admire, but I am afforded, at the very least, a page of printed words to say my own goodbyes. With that in mind, I can think of no more fitting a way to end my journey than to say “Thank you.” Thank you, reader, for accompanying me on a journey that has been more significant in my life than I would have imagined. Whether this is the first thing of mine that you’ve read or the 500th, you have contributed more significantly to my happiness than you can imagine.
In life, you might have the chance to retrace your steps or take one last shot at winning the big game, but it isn’t always clear whether you should take that opportunity. Moving forward is natural even if it is difficult. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me something that my sports heroes might never have had: the strength to realize that my journey, and each of our journeys, is only just beginning.
Marc Cugnon is a senior in Hopper College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .