Forever Our Alma Mater
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2012 20:05
Seniors, I want you to do something for me. I want you to look in a mirror and tell yourself, “My life is going to be radically different.”
The fact of the matter is, it will be. It is going to be radically different because we are leaving our alma mater, which means “nourishing mother.”
You are leaving your mother, except here, mother is actually a school, and instead of paying her with love and kisses, we pay her in cash. And maybe for some of us, she was a bit neglectful, but whether you see her as a good mom or a bad mom, by graduating from this school there is this now an intangible, irrevocable, familial bond that — much like family — exists whether you like it or not.
Potentially even more salient is the idea that our life as a student is over when it is all we have known since age four or five. That’s not to say that school is our life, but it has been a huge facet of our day-to-day existence, and now it won’t be. Many of you will be going on to graduate programs; I tip my hat to you. But I feel like a sprinter who was asked to run a marathon, and I’ve finally reached — and collapsed at — the finish line. I am ready to start the rest of my life.
When I matriculated at Georgetown, my intention was to graduate with a degree in chemistry on the premed track and then transition into the School of Medicine. That went well for a while, but like many, I became a fallen soldier on the premed path my sophomore year. Before anyone gets too sad, it was because Georgetown had, even in my second year, emboldened me with fearless inquiry. Thanks to Georgetown’s liberal arts tradition, I got a taste of a lot of things and ended up finding something even tastier than science: theater. I shifted gears a bit and decided to learn as much as I could about this new love.
However, feeling the pressures of society and capitalist culture, I decided I should get a “useful” degree in addition to theatre — which is useful but not necessarily profitable — and settled on psychology, the perfect blend of my former passion for science and my pervasive passion for people.
But that’s only the academic side. Personally, I grew in ways I didn’t intend and could not have imagined. When one is thrown into a very different, new environment, she feels the impulse to either conform or strike out on her own. Everyone makes the choice, and neither option is necessarily better than the other, but I found myself asserting my Mexican heritage, something I had not had to do before, as well as taking on roles as an LGBTQ activist and a body-positive individual in new, more aggressive ways. The only reason I was able to engage in these passions was that Georgetown provided me with the avenues to do so. I got involved early on with Pride and the LGBTQ Resource Center and was able to write and perform my theater and performance studies thesis on fat acceptance.
I feel like I could go on and on about social learning in my life as a resident assistant at the Culture and Performance Living Learning Community, associate producer of Nomadic Theatre and just generally making so many new, different kinds of friends, but I feel like we’ve all had those experiences, and in a way, it can go unsaid.
The bottom line is that we have grown up at Georgetown. Even though I am terrified of the rest of my life, I am now a more fully formed adult thanks to this school.
I am leaving Georgetown with tangible knowledge, sure, but more importantly, I am leaving having learned how to keep learning without a classroom. I have learned how to go about making an impact on the world, having already made an impact on this school. Because each and every one of us passed through its doors, this school is different, even if only minutely.
And I have learned that I am a valued person. The invisible bond we have with this school also gives us an intangible bond to each other. If you are reading this, you are a valued person. I value you for coming here, whether you were my classmate, my friend, my roommate or the person who swiped my GoCard in Copley.
For all of that and more, all I have to say is: Happy belated Mother’s Day, Georgetown, our dear alma mater.
Allison Villarreal is a senior in the College and the associate producer of Nomadic Theatre.