It’s finally starting to hit me.
In a few weeks, I’m going to start experiencing some big changes. During the past four years, I’ve gotten pretty used to my way of life. Go to class, take care of my assignments, play lots of tennis, eat well, and get enough sleep.
It’s not always that simple, but overall, it’s been a pretty nice life, one with which I’ve gotten very comfortable and familiar. For better or worse, though, my college lifestyle is about to end as i head toward graduation on May 15.
What’s next? I don’t even know for sure. But what is for sure is that leaving Rochester will be an emotional moment, as it clearly marks the end of one stage of my life and the beginning of the next.
Since this is a blog post, and not a book, I’ll refrain from going too far into what these past four years have been like for me. While the details vary from person to person, I know I’m not the only graduating senior who can accurately characterize their time at UR by saying that there were some great times, some tough times, and that in the end it was a positive experience.
It might be a bit cliche, but there’s a reason for that. See, one thing I realized early on in college is that while you’re not a kid living at home anymore, and you’re not an adult making a living yet, you’re still experiencing life just as much as anyone else. The challenges you face, and how you deal with them, are just as valid now as at any other point in life. So while I’m lucky that I haven’t yet had to worry about many “real world” problems, I have plenty of confidence that I’ll be able to deal with the challenges ahead, just like I’ve managed to do with whatever has come my way here at UR.
During these final few weeks, I’ve been doing some thinking about what I’ll miss most about this place. One thing that I don’t think I’ve fully appreciated is the quality of people around here. First and foremost, it’s been a pleasure to be around my fellow students. Not everyone has things in common, and I probably only know a small fraction of the students, but with pretty much no exceptions, everyone I’ve encountered has been nice, thoughtful, and genuinely easy to get along with.
I think about how many times professors have made the dreaded announcement to discuss something with the person sitting next to you. Were these conversations with strangers awkward? Sometimes, yes (especially if someone—never me, of course—hadn’t been paying attention.) But after going through this countless times, it’s really stuck out to me how congenial and relatively pleasant these interactions were. Maybe I’m looking too far into this small thing, but in my eyes it’s a great indicator of what a solid group of people I’ve been able to call my peers.
It’s not just the students that have left an impact on me, though. I probably shouldn’t lump so many others into one group, but I’m going to do it anyway and say that I’ve appreciated pretty much everyone else around here, too. Professors, administrators, coaches, food service and facilities workers, and librarians are just some of the folks that I’ll remember fondly. Many times I would find myself in a conversation with someone, telling them about my day and hearing about theirs. Rarely did it go beyond that, but, simply put, the humaneness of those who live and work on this campus made it a special place for me, and that’s one of the things I’ll certainly miss the most.
During this time of transition in my life, when I’m not looking back on the past, I’m often thinking about the future. For a while now I’ve faced the classic “what are your plans after college?” question, and like any soon-to-be grad, answering is a breeze at this point, even though I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing. I usually tell people what I think they’ll want to hear. How I might get a job doing something related to my major, or that I might go to grad school, both of which are possible, but not necessarily likely. I rarely say the more accurate and honest response about my plans, which is that I don’t really know, but I can guarantee it’ll be something I love doing. For me, more important than money, prestige, or what other people will think, I know that my top priority is that I’m doing something that gets me out of bed in the morning, something I truly enjoy.
When I think about what it is that falls into this description, there’s really only one thing that fits the bill right now. If you know me at all, or probably even if you’ve ever had a conversation with me, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s tennis that really gets my wheels turning. I’ve always loved tennis, but playing on the team here at UR and dedicating a big part of my life to the sport has made me realize that I want it to continue to be one of the biggest parts of my life moving forward.
For a while, it bothered me that when I told people this, they gave me a look and sometimes even openly questioned why I wasn’t pursuing a “real job.” Now, however, I am unfazed by how others perceive my hopes and goals for the future. At UR, I think a big reason why I’m leaving with the feeling that it was a successful four years is because I lived by the belief that you always need to focus on doing things you enjoy as much as you can. This approach to life served me well in college, and I have no doubt that sticking with it and seeing where it leads me is the right play moving forward.
It’s difficult to put into words any real description of my experience at UR. It’s a bit like trying to answer the question, “What has your life been like for the last four years?” Despite the complexity of it all, there are certain things that stick out in my mind as graduation day nears. First, I’ve learned a ton here—a lot in my classes, but even more outside of them. Second, I’ve had some of the best times of my life in Rochester, moments I’ll never forget and always look back on fondly. I’ve also had some real challenges along the way, where I struggled and was down. Through it all, however, I leave UR with a sincere gratitude for everything these past four years, and for everyone that played a part in it.
Ben Shapiro ’16 is an English major from Scarsdale, New York. He recently was named Phi Beta Kappa and has served as president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. He has written for The Buzz, the Campus Times and Messenger Post Media in Canandaigua.