Feeling Nostalgic About My Last First Day of School

For Every Senior Who Just Experienced Their Last First Day Of School, I'm Already Nostalgic

It's the year of lasts and making lasting memories.

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Well, there it is. I have officially experienced my last first day of school after 16 years of education. I've been working my way up to this moment since I was in elementary school. No more first day of school pictures with my backpack over my shoulder. To all the parents, you probably feel old hearing this and you have permission to start crying now. I will definitely be joining you the day I walk across the stage on the quad. I can't believe that I am a senior in college already. These past three years have flown by so incredibly fast and now we're at the end of the road.

It hasn't hit me yet that we're the oldest class on campus now and the freshmen are looking up to us and analyzing us. I remember being a scared little freshman and thinking the seniors were so grown up and feeling so intimidated by them. Now, we're in their shoes, saying hi to everyone we pass by on the quad who we've met over the last three years. We're the ones making plans for our futures that we worked so hard to prepare for. This time next year I could possibly be starting my first full- time job. How crazy!!!!!

Being a senior in college holds a high level of status. In high school, we were still young even though we were seniors. We were the leaders of our sports teams, clubs, and organizations. We couldn't wait to move on to the new adventures of college life. Now, as seniors in college, we've figured it all out. We are still the leaders but more importantly, we will do anything to stay in the moment. We don't want to think about leaving the amazing places we have called home for 4 years before venturing off into the real world on our own.

It's crazy to think that three years ago, I was worrying about what classes I was going to take, where I would tailgate before a football game, what sorority I wanted to be in, who I was going to eat dinner with, etc. Fast forward and now I'm worrying about fitting all of my classes into my schedule before May, where I'm going to live after college, what kind of job I'll have, how much money I'll make, where my friends will live, whose bridesmaid I will be, etc.

Since I'm already feeling nostalgic, my plan this year is to not only try to figure out what my life will look life after I leave this amazing place I call home but to also do and see as much as I can before I leave. Senior year is all about making that final set of lasting memories that you will carry with you for the rest of your life and still be talking about in your 80s. Even though this year is the year of "lasts," we have to live in the moment and appreciate everything. Before we know it, we'll be stressing about how to design our grad caps and what we'll be wearing underneath our purple gowns.

Go Class of 2019 and Go Dukes!!!

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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