50 Days: A Graduation Institution that Doesn't Ring Hollow

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I arrived at the State House up on historic campus at about 6:30 pm on Friday evening. 50 days had already been in full swing for an hour and a half, with only with only a half hour left to go. The very nice mid-range wine selection available would be depleted without a doubt. My hair has been tousled and inflated by the late March rain of earlier, and I have not and will not unzip my black windbreaker, making me a drab dot of under-dressedness in the sea of floral frocks and crisp men’s jackets. ‘Why am I here?’ I ask myself. Up until 20 minutes ago, I had no specter of an idea when 50 days was going to be, and I didn’t particularly care.

This, of course, was entirely my own problem. My college career has for the most part been a story of finding what worked and sticking with it. That goes for my major, my friends, and most of my extracurriculars. Even if I branched out, at the center was always the same core group of people, the same clubs and the same work. So I was utterly unsentimental about the whole idea of 50 days, and that’s not typically the case with me. Just reading my previous articles, anyone could probably piece together I’m soft as a marshmallow about everything from this school to gum on the bottom of my shoes. But I had done 100 days, it was fine. If I wanted to hoist a glass with people I would miss, I could do it in the comfort of my own home, with nobody but those I cared about most. I wondered, what could another milemarker in the seemingly endless funeral march of my college years possibly be to me. And as I have so many times at SMCM, I turned out to have underestimated the whole thing.

As I pull up to the State House, I get a text from my friend and housemate, Maggie. ‘I saved a glass of wine for you’ she writes. Sure enough waiting outside in the hedge circled patio is Maggie, glass in hand, with my editor and friend Jacob. I toss it back gratefully, though hardly gracefully. I look at the stemmed glass she has handed to me, on it is printed ‘St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Class of 2015’, in that recognizable font. They’re a gift from the Alumni Foundation, and I’m there just in time to get my own from Kelly Schroeder. By now, looking at the lovely token, I’m glad that I came at least to get this.

When I return to my friends, Maggie pulls out her phone and shows me a picture, our signatures one after another. It’s a picture of our names in the Book, the book every student signs at the end of orientation, something that puts you side by side with countless students to come before and after you. Maggie knew our names were together, she reminds me, because we stood together in line at the statehouse that day. It was the first day we ever really bonded, became close. Maggie was the first friend I made when I came here. And as I think back, suddenly I’m overcome. How lucky I am to have a friend so thoughtful that she would make sure I can enjoy a glass of wine at 50 days, that she would make sure I got to see my name in the Book, even when my own boneheadedness would otherwise prevent it.

Maggie leaves, and I continue into the statehouse to see what the scene is like exactly. I missed Jemile, our class president, speaking earlier. Later Jacob tells me he heard the class was pretty well behaved during her speech compared to other years, and he points out this probably goes to show how much respect Jemile commands. I see a line of students gathered around the Book, and I see my friends Sarah and Nnenna, signing under the page marked March 27, 2015, a page for the students who made it to the end. I didn’t even realize a page like that existed, and I sign my name beneath them. I have to admit, even in this moment, there’s some amount of pride in seeing this come full circle. I think of my friend who decided to opt out of coming, someone who worked hard to get to that place, and how much he deserves to be along side all of us, and I scribble his name in too, in a bizarre, childlike scrawl that I think he would appreciate.

I return to campus with Sarah and Nnenna, and my 50 days is ended. Later that afternoon, the one or two pictures of me with people I met there trickle in, and even with my boots muddied and my hair aflutter, I’m grateful to have these pictures with these particular people. People like Sarah, my wonderful roommate from junior year, and Nnenna, with whom I have fond memories of nights on the couch with a movie or her DS. With Rachel, who I met freshmen year trying out for choir, and sang with in the hall as I waited. With Abiola, whom I met only this January, and who has never failed to greet me warmly since. And with Kelsey, who became my friend after a stint in the Fall play.

So many people with little parts in my college life, and yet they really had left their mark. I was filled with regret that I hadn’t tried harder to find more people I had known, that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to make one more memory with them, but it’s a mistake I don’t plan to recreate. Going forward, I will cherish moments like 50 days, moments to celebrate the people you may not have known well, but who still made an impact on you with their kindness, humour and those lucky moments when your paths crossed for something brief but special to happen.

But then again, I am a marshmallow.

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