Today’s the last first day. The last first day of school I’ll ever have. For years, we complain and dream about the time when we finished school, toss our caps in the air, and walk out the university doors for good. But as I sit here thinking about today, I can’t help but feel a little sad that today is my last first day of school.
Three years ago, I sat in my tiny dorm room (the first one) ready to leave JMU. Before I even gave James Madison a chance, I was already planning how to not return in the fall. Now, three years later, I sit in my apartment on the night before my senior year, dreading graduation in the spring. It’s amazing how three years can vastly change perspectives and widen horizons resulting in a complete attitude change.
In truth, James Madison University is my home. If I told my freshman self that, I would have laughed in your face. How can a backup school, my stepping stone to somewhere “greater” be the place I willingly call home? Well after three years of trying to figure that question out, I think I finally have an answer. What I have learned is that the right, opportunity, circumstance and memories are what makes somewhere home. I can confidently say that JMU has offered me all four to result in an unforgettable college experience thus far.
As a freshman, I was nervous and scared. I was a math major. I had no friends and nothing but fear inside me. I doubtfully joined a sorority, shockingly changed my major and heartbreakingly was denied from the school of my dreams...again. It was horrifying and embarrassing. I felt stupid and shameful. Like I wasn’t worthy of feeling success or accomplishment.
Now, as I start my senior year I couldn’t feel like a more different human being. I do not feel nervous or scared. As sad as I am that this is the beginning of my academic end, I can’t help but feel excitement and thrill. From tailgates, to tours, recruitment, bar hopping with friends, date functions, senior week, the more I look forward to enjoying every second JMU has to offer from now until graduation in May.
I also have an entirely different major. I changed from facts and figures to papers and persuasion. Although a terrifying move, a defining one in my college career. The fear I felt taking a jump of the metaphorical academic deep-end was one of my greatest decisions and so necessary. Nothing is more fulfilling than being eager to go to class and learn. And then taking that knowledge to an actual job and love every single day is a feeling like no other. I’m excited to start applying to jobs and see where this major takes my in the spring. Although job hunting comes with a slew of rejection and heartbreak, I crave the challenge and can’t wait to get started.
Another big change from freshman year to now is my sense of belonging. I had little friends and didn’t quite know where to go or what to do as a freshman on campus. As a senior, I have never felt like I belonged anywhere more than I do at JMU. The atmosphere here is unlike any other. The sense of welcome and appreciation is truly wonderful and the friendships I have formed throughout my time here are so special. There are a handful of friendships that I know are lifelong and will stand the test of time, distance and life change.
As a senior I have only a few goals for myself. As I have grown to be an overachiever to a fault, this list is simple. First, I want to graduate with a full time job I am proud of. Second, I want to enjoy every day I have left at JMU. I want to experience everything I can, enjoy as many football games as possible, give as many tours I can and more. Third, I want to make sure that by the time I leave JMU this May that I have accomplished everything I wanted to in college. I want to ensure that by the time I leave Harrisonburg that there are no regrets. No “what if’s”. No “I wish I had’s”. I want to leave here feeling accomplished, proud and most of all grateful.
As I cross the first of many lasts of my senior year list, I look forward to seeing what each day brings. I want to begrudgingly appreciate the late nights of studying, the 40 page papers and 200 question finals. But I also want to cherish the 2am nights with my best friends, movie nights with my roommates and days of recruitment with my sorority sisters. Before I know it, I'll be donning my purple cap and gown accepting my diploma on the Quad wishing I was a freshman all over again.