Just Sayin’: The Last Goodbye

Erik JohnsonI woke up, put on my wool beanie and unzipped the tent door. The horizon of the Ohio cornfields stretched out miles into the distance. A slight glow could be seen coming up against deep navy blue sky. My tentmate woke up and inched his way over in his sleeping bag. The two of us just sat, watching as the world emerged into a new day.

We hadn’t decided to camp out until after 10:30 the previous night, and by the time we decided to go to sleep, it was well past midnight. But that didn’t matter to the two of us the next morning as the crisp spring morning air carried the songs of birds to our ears. The guys in the other two tents were all still soundly asleep.

Over the next 45 minutes, we watched the sun climb quickly above the horizon, illuminating the droplets of dew on the grass around us and coloring the clouds oranges and pinks. Apart from some initial chatter when we first woke up, neither of us said a word.

When everyone finally woke up, we gathered at one of our houses for a flax pancake and coffee breakfast. We told stories, laughing with and at each other. It was not the first time we had camped out together or gathered at this house for breakfast, but I couldn’t help but think it just might be the last.

A few weeks ago I decided to rewatch the final two episodes of “The Office.” Some of you loved the show. Some of you loathed it. I was usually amused by it for the most part. But the reason I wanted to rewatch those final two episodes was to hear one line spoken by the character Andy Bernard. In the finale, he says, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

It’s a simple line, but it strikes a chord with a lot of people. And now that graduation looms dangerously close for me and the rest of the seniors, it has become extremely relevant.

Not many people really like school. For those of you who do, I applaud you. But the rest of us spend a lot of time highly anticipating being done with college and being able to move on with life. And it’s easy to be consumed by the desire to be done.

At the same time, I think a lot of us know there won’t be another time in our lives quite like this one. We love to hate school, but we don’t want to leave these friends we’ve made behind. And it can be tough to combine an anticipation for the future with a healthy dosage of enjoying where you are. And when it all finally ends, it can be really sad.

Something I have come to notice though, is that the end of a good story typically brings with it a sense of sadness. Especially if it has been a long time coming, like a long book series, a 10-season television show or an epic movie trilogy. When the story ends, there is a major letdown.

There are other reasons the graduating season can be sad: regret, fear of the future, leaving friends behind. And I think for everyone there is a mixture of those things. But what I really hope for when graduation day finally comes is for it to be sad because a good story is coming to end.

All that being said, there are a few points I have made over the course of the year, and some that I haven’t until now, that I want to reiterate for no other reason than the fact I think they are important and good lessons to remember — not just for school, but for life.

  • Remember to be where you are. As Dr. Brown once said, “This is where I am. This is what I am doing.” It is easy to think about the way things used to be or the way you hope things will be some day, but it is important to focus on where you are now. Those of you who still have school left, be focused on school. My fellow seniors who are graduating, wherever you find yourself in life, be fully present there.
  • Speaking of Dr. Brown quotes, he also once said, “You will never become tomorrow what you are not making yourself today.” Again, the focus is on you taking responsibility to focus on where you are right now, except with the future in mind. Who do you want to be in the next five, 10 or 15 years? You will never become that person if you don’t start developing the habits and skills now.
  • Know what you believe and why you believe it.
  • Don’t equate happiness with comfort. Do things you are afraid to do that will challenge you to grow as a person.
  • Fail. Pick yourself back up. Repeat. If you are pursuing things worth pursuing, most likely you are going to fail from time to time. The people who finally break through barriers are usually the ones who constantly pick themselves up from the ground, dust themselves off and start moving forward again.
  • Don’t miss the people in your life. Except for maybe your family, people are generally only around for a season. Every interaction you have with those around you is either pushing them toward God or away from him. Don’t miss the opportunity to truly know someone.

I guess all I really have left to say is thanks. Thanks to those who have read my column every month. Thanks to Cedars for giving me the opportunity to write about anything I wanted to write about. Thanks to all my friends, both students and professors, who haven’t given up on me at times when I have given up on myself over the last four years.

And last but not least, God bless, and have an awesome day in Christ.

Erik Johnson is a senior journalism major and columnist for Cedars. He competes on the track team. Follow him @walkingtheedge9.

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