Lucye Rafferty/The Hoya Marty La Falce

Now that grades are in, let me come clean. My existentialism professor probably shouldn’t have passed me, well at least based on the notes I took.

Hmmm . as I look in my binder, some of the scribbles include a list of top five potential spring break destinations, six handwritten copies of lines from my role in a recent play, a note to the kid next to me telling him how much time was left in class, another note making fun of an SFS student for dominating class conversation and yet another note to the Philadelphia fan next to me reminding him that Carter and the Jays decimated Kruk, Daulton and the Phillies in the ’93 series. But just in the corner of my binder I have a note that’s circled and starred, “Prof says: `Sartre’s existential virtues are ANGUISH AND DESPAIR.'” Anguish and despair? Right, now I recall why I should not have taken this class. It was depressing and miserable. Then another scribble in my binder, “Prof: JOY REQUIRES THE POTENTIAL FOR LOSS AND PAIN.'” While I got a D on my first Sartre paper, I learned something. Let me try to convey what these scribbled thoughts might have to do with leaving Georgetown.

On Monday, May 19, our Georgetown will be no more. The Georgetown we have each created will be painfully absent. There were van rides to tutoring, descending from the Georgetown Hilltop into the lively throes of Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. As we peered from the van windows into neighborhoods foreign to the affluent, colonial-style Georgetown environs, we noticed vividly painted murals jutting out from bustling crowds of people waiting by the metro. Our eyes flashed from a scene of men donning sombreros, relaxing outside a pupuseria, to women scrubbing down the sidewalk outside their restaurants. When we arrived at tutoring, our kids smushed up against the glass of their apartment door waiting for us, and when we climbed out of the van they greeted us with yells and enormous bear hugs. Some nights they just fought us to watch The Simpsons. Other nights they raced through their homework. But on the best nights we would struggle through every problem and in the last five minutes they would finally grasp the lesson about right angles we were trying to convey. On Monday, van rides and tutoring will only exist in memory.

The hours we spent with friends designing the set for a play, driving to Target for props, sweating through an agonizing audition, memorizing lines in Poulton at 2 a.m. until we crashed to sleep just to wake up in the morning uttering them involuntarily, dressing ourselves in costumes that gave us a new identity, synchronizing chorus lines so that the audience would experience our best rhythm, trying to hold back hysterical laughter as the crowd had no idea how horribly we had botched a line – we have created these experiences and made them meaningful. On Monday they will be gone.

There were papers. Pages and pages of papers, on topics ranging from The Republic to The Tempest. But for nearly every paper, there were five-minute breaks with our friends that turned into three-hour conversations. We eagerly prolonged those late nights before papers were due, with conversations that revealed our friends most fervent beliefs and diverse opinions: their devout atheism, their evangelical Christianity, their disdain for capitalism, their grief endured after losing their father, their tensions with friends, parents and girlfriends, insecurities about their appearance or abilities, their pet peeves, their crush on a girl from their IR class, their support for Nader or their longing for home. On Monday, not only are the papers gone, but so too are the conversations.

We found calm on the cool, late nights in Dahlgren. As the fountain flowed, we sat softly with a friend trying to identify constellations, or we just silently reflected alone. We dropped Johnnie our change outside Wisey’s and then devoured a gloppy chicken madness in the Village B courtyard. We baked in the Copley sun and fired footballs from Lauinger to John Carroll’s statue. We played ultimate frisbee at midnight and intense games of volleyball on Georgetown Day. We climbed to the roof of LXR to gaze out over the city or fire spit-balls on the cars below. Red Square exposed us to a range of tastes and protests: from delicious Krispy Kremes and Girl Scout cookies to displays of unity in the wake of campus hate crimes and startling re-dramatizations of Israeli checkpoints. On Monday, Dahlgren, Red Square and every other Georgetown experience will be painfully absent; the Georgetown we have created will be gone.

What do any of these experiences have to do with existentialism? The starred, scribbled note in my binder provides the answer: we cannot experience joy without the potential for absence and pain. We will first face absence on Monday, then this summer, anguish at the separation from friends, and next fall, despair when we realize we cannot return to Georgetown one more time. The depth of our longing for Georgetown is natural. Commencement may mark the beginning of new opportunities for meaning, but we must not gloss over the absence our departure makes fierce. We should embrace it. The greater the longing, the more intense the meaning.

Marty La Falce is a senior in the College.

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