Guest Editorial: Seniors—Finding Closure Among the Chaos

When looking back on college, remember that sometimes our smallest moments were the most significant.

Photo+from+Vanderbilt%27s+Facebook

Photo from Vanderbilt's Facebook

Abhi Vadali, Guest Writer

You guys ever seen the final episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?

The one where Will Smith’s entire family moved out to the West Coast, leaving him behind. 

The one where he said goodbye to Carlton, his best friend in the world; Ashley, who was like a younger sister to him; and Uncle Phil, the one dude who never, ever gave up on him.

The one where he was afraid of being on his own and was terrified of what’s next.

Yeah, that one.

The final scene of the show left Will standing, completely alone, in the same house where he grew up and turned his life into something. 

And it was heart-wrenching. 

If you want to know what it felt like to be a graduating senior walking onto a barren Vanderbilt campus a couple Wednesday’s ago, after students were asked to pack their bags and head home, you need to watch that episode. 

Despite this initial feeling, I, just like my fellow classmates, cleared out my apartment over the next few days, said my goodbyes, and jumped on the next one-way flight to my home, Minneapolis. Throughout this whole process I couldn’t get my mind off one thing. Just how much it hurt to leave. 

Arie Kruglanski, a social psychologist, coined the term “need for closure” back in the ‘90s. He talked about how it’s a process in which someone seeks answers to resolve the painful feelings that originate from a loss of something. He goes on to say that often, we form a mental puzzle of whatever it is that happened, and closure is achieved when each piece of this puzzle is put in the perfect place.

And whenever I think about that it’s like—man. The only pieces left to fill in our Vanderbilt puzzle were all our lasts

We didn’t get our last St.Fratty’s Day together. Our last Cafe con Leche together. Our last birthday parties together. Our last basketball or baseball game together. Our last Holi together. Our last club meetings together. Our last Rites together. Our last beach week together. Our last classes together. Our last finals season together…we didn’t get the last 60 days we were supposed to have together. 

Sounds dramatic, but no amount of inspirational emails, poignant Instagram posts, or motivational speeches will make up for that. As of now, we just don’t have that closure, and, as my buddy’s mom eloquently put it the other day when she came to pick him up from Towers, “It just sucks.”

So all this begs the question, how can we get this closure? We can’t live with that emptiness forever right? Well, I found the answer to this question in one of the places I least suspected.

Commons.

Photo courtesy of Abhi Vadali
Me (far right) and my buddies (Akshar, far left, and Rishabh) revisiting Commons one last time

As I sat on the ledge right outside of a desolate Commons Center with two of my best friends this past Thursday night, I gained something that I think so many of us seniors desperately need in the wake of this crisis: perspective. 

We talked about our future plans, our senior years, our families and our memories from freshman year together. Of course, we reminisced over the big things: Orientation Week, Greek Row, the football games, the Commons Ball. But more so, we remembered the small things—the minutiae, the trivial moments of our lives that seemed starkly insignificant at the time. We remembered our evenings laughing in our floor’s common room, our long hours on the Rec basketball courts, our sleepless nights studying in the upstairs dining hall and the countless midnight Munchie Mart runs we made.

You see, we realized that the “little” moments are just as, if not more, salient than the “big” memories. 

And I was reminded of this. The “big moments” only come every so often, but the small idiosyncrasies of our relationships that we encountered every day with our roommates, our classmates, and our friends…those are the ones that brought us together. Those are the ones that truly defined our Vanderbilt experience.

Seniors, what I’m trying to say is this. Over the next few months, we’re going to miss a lot, and I mean a lot, of big moments. Hell, we’re even going to miss graduation. Amidst all this, it’s on us to find the closure we need. The best way to do this, in my eyes, is to not dwell on what we lost, and rather, think about what we have, but haven’t necessarily appreciated: over three and a half years of small, everyday memories in college. In our day-to-day lives as students, we were often caught up with the next class, the next meeting, or the next exam. Amongst this hustle-and-bustle, many of us failed to realize the beauty in the ordinary interactions that gave us a sense of contentment in our daily lives. Whether it was the ‘secret handshakes’ we had with our hallmates or the small lessons we learned with our classmates, these moments formed the foundation and basis for why we love the people at Vanderbilt that we do. Without these, we don’t see the nuances in humanity and character between those that we appreciate…the ones that tend to get lost in those “big moments.” We may not have Snapchats or Polaroids to show for them, but rather, we have blossoming relationships with people we’ll be in touch with for the rest of our lives. 

And when you take these trips down memory lane, be intentional. Think. Journal. Talk. Science shows that expressing these feelings in an outlet you’re comfortable with will help you actively acknowledge their impact on you, closing that void you may feel.

Ultimately, we were forced to rip the bandage off senior year, rather than slowly peel it off over the next two months. And I’ll say it: it hurts. It still hurts. 

But maybe, just maybe, as the Fresh Prince stood and took a long look at that empty room, he knew he would be okay. He wanted his friends and family to stay longer—we all do—but, as they left, he knew he had years of good and bad, big and little moments to look back on. He acknowledged that those transformed him into the person he became. Just as ours transformed us into who we are today: Vanderbilt graduates.

Life moves on, it always does. In a few weeks, we’ll all look ahead and become excited about our future ventures, job offers, grad schools and so on. But if you ever look back and still feel the pain of ripping off this bandage, remember two things. One, the collection of small (and big) memories you had at Vanderbilt will always, always outweigh the 60 days you didn’t get. And, from all of your fellow seniors: as Will Smith himself said to his best friend, C, before wishing him goodbye, “whenever, and wherever…we got your back.” 

P.S. Stay safe, stay inside, stay informed, and, if at all possible, consider donating to Feeding South Florida or any of the thousands of other charitable organizations in this time of need. 

Abhi Vadali is a graduating senior studying Computer Science and can be reached at abhiram.v.vadali@vanderbilt.edu.