Be freaking grateful while you still can

The past week has been strangely and surprisingly emotional.

Spring weather warmed campus and I lounged on the quad, feeling overwhelmed with what the coming of spring means. The basketball team had senior night and my roommates and I sat in the Dean Dome for the last time as students, tearing up with the senior players as they offered emotional thanks to their influencers. A 70 degree day gave way to a gold-soaked dusk, and I sat on my house’s roof and wondered how many more nights I’d have in this place with this feeling: full.

All great moments, but all moments that also make me want to cry as I think about them now.

It’s so easy to overlook what we have. I remember visiting UNC for the first time and being blown away by how beautiful campus was and how warm the atmosphere felt. I loved my visit, and I loved what I knew about the school, but I stifled any hopes as I doubted my chances of getting in. I knew I was up against a small out-of-state cap and thousands of other students, most of whom were probably smarter and kinder and funnier and more impactful and more passionate and better looking and more rah-rah-Carolina than I was.

Then I got in.

Living in Chapel Hill and attending UNC has truly been incredible, but with constant exposure to this place, a dulling of the senses occurs.

Sometimes I would rather do anything else in the world instead of sit through class. Sometimes I stare at my phone instead of the beautiful people and backdrop that surround me. Sometimes the Old Well just looks like a weird water fountain, sometimes the quad just looks like grass, sometimes Wilson Library just looks like a cold dungeon entrapping desperate studiers. Sometimes I forget that my time here will not continue into some blissful version of forever.

Whenever this happens, I try to remember how my wide freshman eyes saw things. Although they definitely processed with more naivety and ignorance, they never failed to acknowledge the small but beautiful details of being here.

Class was a haven for hungry minds. Campus was architecture and landscaping porn. Other students were all smarter and kinder and funnier and more impactful and more passionate and better looking and more rah-rah-Carolina than I was, and I fell in love with them for it.

Some days I can’t see through my freshman eyes anymore. I feel too lost and distracted in the jumble of the job hunt, and our impending departures, and what I’m feeling versus what I’m supposed to be feeling and what I’m doing versus what I’m supposed to be doing.

But most days, I’m thankful I can still find them. I felt like that freshman asking herself, “what the hell did I do to deserve this?” as I lounged on the quad, and took in the sea of blue in the Dean Dome, and sat on the roof watching the sun bathe everything in gold.

I try to be grateful for what I have instead of longing for what I lack, but I’m especially learning how to actively and consciously be grateful now, in this precious and precarious stage of life.

I work in UNC’s admissions office and interact with the incoming class of 2020 every single day. I love my job, but it’s been especially interesting this semester, as I’m realizing these are the kids who will replace me and my friends as we’re phased out.

They will fill our void in the Dean Dome, they will take our spots on the quad, they will live where we lived and study where we studied and party where we partied. They will be grateful for and in awe of this place and all of its offerings–as we were, as they should be.

How obvious is my jealously?

While I’m jealous that these kids are on the brink of this crazy, exciting, transformative journey, I’m also glad I have the opportunity to work with them. They remind me to be grateful for this place and what it embodies every day while I’m still here, until they come in with their wide freshman eyes, acknowledging the same small but beautiful details of being here and feeling grateful in our place.

Just look at how cute and stoked they already are.

UNC20. Seriously? How?

It’s when I interact with those kids and bask in those moments that I realize how incredibly fleeting time truly is.

Acknowledge what you have when you still have it and be freaking grateful for it, because soon it will be your last first spring afternoon on the quad, or last basketball game as a student, or last golden hour from the roof.

I am grateful for these things. More importantly, I am grateful there’s still time.