On a Kairos retreat, a contemplative retreat rooted in Ignatian spirituality, during my senior year of high school, my theology teacher gave a stirring reflection in which he revealed the difficult life lessons he learned from losing his young son and — years later — his wife to cancer. The lesson I learned: Always, always, always say, “I love you,” to those you love. “Write down that mantra,” my teacher instructed us teenagers. “Say it out loud,” he urged. Repeat those words over and over so you will never forget them. Never regret a missed opportunity to tell someone you love them. Always, always, always say “I love you.” Those seven words became a daunting but driving force in my life.

Having spent four years on the Hilltop, I finally understand what John Thompson Jr. meant when he compared Georgetown to heaven. I love this place with all my heart and it will always be a part of who I am. However, this was not always the case. It took me a while to call the Hilltop my home.

During my first year here, I often felt lonely and out of place. It was not until an ESCAPE retreat later that year that I realized I was not alone: there were many others having difficulty adjusting to Georgetown. I thought back to my freshman floor friends who seemed to have everything together, and I wondered if they too were secretly struggling. So I decided to put what my high school teacher taught me into practice: I told my friends how much I love them. Much to my surprise, they all let down their guards and returned the sentiment.

That was the first time I was able to call Georgetown my home. I found my home because I shared my love.

I started doing this with other groups I was involved in, whether it be ESCAPE, Hoya Blue or Relay for Life, and I was shocked at how receptive and appreciative people were of this. These past four years have been filled with happiness I never thought possible and lows I never saw coming, but one thing has gotten me through all of it — the love I have felt here on the Hilltop.

My time at Georgetown has been the best four years of my life, and I know that is true for so many of you. That’s why everyone is so sad to graduate; no one wants to leave this incredible place they now call home. But instead of letting this feeling get you down, I want you all to recognize that being sad to graduate is the best possible feeling to have at this moment. It means you loved your time here and don’t want it to end. At graduation, rather than lamenting the fact that it is over, celebrate just how amazing these last four years have been.

Always, always, always say “I love you.” Keeping this phrase in mind, I challenge you all to go find a friend who has had an effect on your life here at Georgetown. Now, sit them down and tell them all the reasons why you love them and what they have meant to you over these past four years. I know that this may be difficult and a bit awkward at first, but I cannot even begin to describe the overwhelming joy that will overcome you when you see just how happy this makes your loved ones. You are a reflection of those you surround yourself with; when you lift them up and share your love with them, this will reflect in you, and you too will find happiness.

So I want to take the time right now to express my love for the best thing that has ever happened to me, Georgetown.

I love you, Mom and Dad, for making incredible sacrifices every day to send me here. I love you, Relay for Life, for fighting for a cure for cancer and for becoming my family on the Hilltop. I love you, The Tombs, for somehow making a creepy cellar one of my favorite places on campus. I love you, Lau 2, for being a great place to pretend to do work. I love you, Georgetown rats, for putting my masculinity in check every time I see you. I love you, Chicken Finger Thursdays, for being the primary way I have noticed a week has passed these last four years. But most importantly, I love anyone who I am lucky enough to call my friend. You are why I love Georgetown.

You are a reflection of those you surround yourself with; when they are happy, you will be too. Never forget: Always, always, always say “I love you.”

Trevor McLean is a senior in the College.

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