Hidden among all of the away messages on Wednesday – variations on the “I don’t want to be at class because I’ve really enjoyed the last few days of lounging around without any stress or things that absolutely need to get done” theme – was one that really got to me. It was my roommate’s, and it said, “Last first day of school .” Mentally, I added “EVER” and felt the bottom drop out of my stomach.

It’s a feeling that I at least like to imagine all seniors share – abject terror at the prospect of, for the first time in your life, having no idea where you will be next year. It’s like senior year of high school, but a thousand times worse. Then I at least knew I’d be in college, and had even narrowed it down to a handful of locales. No such luck this time. It’s just me and the vast, empty expanse of adulthood. For the first time I find myself envious of those poor, biology-immersed pre-med souls, since they at least can look forward to another four years of school.

I honestly don’t know what I’ll do without school. It’s always been there and to be perfectly frank, I’ve always enjoyed it. But now I look back on all of the first days past and realize that I never appreciated them enough as they came, except the very first ones. And I guess that’s fitting.

Surprisingly, I remember my first day of kindergarten clearly. I remember what I wore and what I had for lunch. I remember being disappointed that the crayon packs the school gave us only had eight colors and that the puzzles, specifically the one that showed the story of “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater,” were not very hard at all.

The first day of high school was, of course, less traumatic. True, the building, teachers and students were new, but school wasn’t some huge unknown universe; it was all a great adventure. That morning, as my father dropped me off, he gave me a piece of advice that I would grow accustomed to hearing every day until I got my license.

I didn’t understand the true meaning and wisdom behind his words until much later, but now I see them to have a twofold meaning. When he said “Drive carefully, Mary,” he meant that I should always be aware of the path I am traveling and the choices I am making, and that as I go through the day to watch for how my actions will impact those around me. My dad doesn’t know it, but since I’ve been at Georgetown, I’ve always had a slip of paper with those words written on it somewhere inconspicuous in my room, usually next to my desk.

When I moved into Village C as a freshman, the last member of my family to leave was my brother, who stuck around to visit with friends from his own days on the Hilltop. After taking me to The Tombs for the first of innumerable meals there he left me at the front gates with words that I will always remember. “Good luck,” he said, “and have fun.” Simple words, but some of the most sagacious advice ever given. After all, what good is all the success in the world, if it’s not in something you love?

I wonder what those younger versions of me on first days past would say if I could sit them down, even for five minutes. Would they be impressed? Appalled? Bewildered by the choices I’ve made? The little girl in a blue patterned dress with a white collar and satin ribbon in her hair would, I’m sure, be disappointed that I quit ballet in the seventh grade. The high school freshman, her uniform skirt ironed for the first and only time, would ask why I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore.

No, I wouldn’t answer their questions for them, they’d find out in time. Instead, I’d give them a piece of advice. It’s advice I figured out for myself on Wednesday, my last first day of school ever, advice I gleaned from reflecting on 16 first days past: just because you’ve come to the last of something doesn’t mean that there isn’t another first of some sort still to come. So what if I don’t know what sort of first my next one is? It will be there waiting for me when this one has run its course. I’m still scared, terrified even, of not knowing where I’ll be in a year, but I’m sure I’ll be somewhere and for now I’ll have to be content with that.

Mary Goundrey is a Senior in the College and a Contributing Editor for THE HOYA.

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