I sit here now in my college apartment two weeks away from graduation, readers, and I cannot say that I am feeling entirely one way about leaving. Yes, I am incredibly hopeful and optimistic about what the future holds; after all, it’s only two weeks to the day until I get to see my parents for the first time in five months and we will all be fully vaccinated.
I have a full-time job waiting for me after graduation, something I’ve dreamed about. I love the work, the co-workers, the environment. I move into a new apartment with my cat soon, still in Johnson, close to old friends, with opportunity to make new ones.
As far as Johnson goes, I’ve carpe’d the fucking diem. I like to say on my tours that “college is what you put into it, times a thousand” and if that’s the case, then my time at Johnson is more than my whole heart and soul, the sum of my tears and heartache and anxiety, wrapped up in all the love and dedication I have ever shown and been shown here.
This place nurtured me beyond what I ever imagined. I was purposeless six years ago, having stumbled my frightened way through sophomore year of high school like a drunken man on Halloween. I thought about writing, about music, botany… none of it really fit the way I thought a college major should. So when I drove up onto campus with my dad in tow and started introducing mysellf at that first open house, I had no idea what was in store. The people and this place entranced me, and I realized I was worth investing in. I was worth all the time, the energy. I had to put that work in, something I’d really never done before, but it felt good. It felt exhiliarating, the way rolling up your sleeves and digging your fingers into the spring soil to pull weeds does.
I have been unquantifiably enriched by you, Johnson. Not just for the snacks that I gathered like a goblin during my friendly walks through Dewey, but for the afternoon talks with administrators, thoughtful chitchats with anyone and everyone who crossed my path. We have endured so much together. Somehow this organization, this campus, is like a living, breathing organism, nurturing its students like seedlings.
The community around here is made of Johnson grads, and even those who didn’t graduate but were touched somehow by its presence feel the campus on the hill like a beacon. When the pandemic is finally over, when we can rip off the masks and embrace each other as long-distant lovers separated by seas often do, this place will spring to life– with ballet camps and recitals in Dibden, with campus tours from cross country travelers, imbued with the life it so graciously holds in its halls and pathways.
I am incredibly grateful for this place– with its weirdos and square-pegs-in-round-holes. To escape unscathed from all the positive change would have been a tragedy. I didn’t “find myself” here, I grew myself here. I pruned the dead things and let them fall, but in their places I sprouted new, strong branches with which to hold up those that will come after– the prospectives from my tours became the freshmen in my orientation group who became the staff members for Basement Medicine.
I’ve planted my metaphorical trees for the students who come after– orientation leading, outspoken advocacy, and most importantly, my work in Basement Medicine. Even when I have faltered, this team has pushed us to be our best.
The lovely Opal Savoy will be Basement Medicine’s new captain, and I have no doubt that she will lead with honor, integrity and compassion. Incredible human and sports editor Allison Irons and I will be graduating, so we leave this paper in the capable hands of Opal, Solil Borthwick (our wickedly smart copy editor) and brilliant staff reporter Marcus Allen. No doubt in my mind that they will be joined by a new crop of future rockstars.
All this optimism; All this hope. At the same time, I am terrified. The life I have led so far, the journeys I have taken, have been with incredible support. Now here I am, about to step out over the cliff’s edge, hoping that my fledgling wings will figure out how to flap mid-fall.
I know that I still have people from all over to support me, but letting this place go is going to be harder than anything else I’ve ever had to do.
After this last layout, I took a few moments to meditate in the Basement Medicine office. I’ve been blessed by this editorship for five semesters, and the office has been my home away from home for that long. It feels like yesterday (cliched, I know, blech!) that I wandered in there for the first time to watch the staff at work.
I felt their fire and I was immediately engulfed by it. Even when we thought Johnson might close permanently, we stood through it, through the pandemic, through these last three semesters.
It was clear from that backlash that Johnson (and our sister Lyndon) are more beloved by their communities than we could have ever known previous. Thousands of people stood up for us. Cars went parading through Montpelier; hundreds of people spoke at board meetings just to say, “These campuses are important, and you cannot shutter them without fatally wounding the Northern Tier.”
Those people, they feel this pull, to come back to Johnson. Some graduates orbit and land here for a while, only to launch back out to see brighter skies on the horizon. So when this campus was threatened, the backlash was overwhelming.
To some extent, we were incredibly lucky in that way. My friends at places like Green Mountain and Mount Ida were not so lucky– their boards and internal machinations were secretive about these closures. We happened upon it, and then came the surge.
Graduation day is going to be tearful, in only the best of ways. I have done, seen, learned, been so much these past four years. It hasn’t always been easy, or fun, but it’s been enriching and uplifting and good for me.
Chances are if you’re the kind of person who reads my column every issue, you’re the very person I’m speaking to when I say, “I’m going to miss you, Johnson.” If this is your first time and you have no idea who I am, I’m also grateful that we got to share this brief moment together. Both of you: embrace each other. Life is worth living– it’s worth every moment of upset, heartbreak and loss when you realize that it doesn’t last forever.
Could I go on forever about how much this place has bestowed on me? Yeah, probably. I was a whole different person a year ago, let alone in 2016. This picture below just illustrates that I’ve learned how to layer clothing appropriately since then– other, more important life lessons notwithstanding.
Good lord, 2016 Rebecca… What were you doing wearing a sweater dress, black slacks, brown and gold shoes, and a raggedy-ass flannel?
The answer, of course, was living my goddamned best life, looking like a literal hobo. Also, it was windy that day. Look how happy I was. I had no idea how happy my life could be just four years later.
This isn’t goodbye, Johnson. This is, as the dolphins once said,
“So long, and thanks for all the fish!”
-Rebecca Flieder, Editor in Chief