On my way to the dentist’s office this week, I got in the elevator with a guy who saw my National Championship t-shirt. “Do you go to Carolina?” he asked. Without thinking twice, I smiled and said yes. (We wear Carolina gear around campus and think nothing of it, but outside of the Tar Heel state, it’s an instant conversation starter for anyone with a connection to Chapel Hill.) The guy asked if I’d ever eaten at Artisan Pizza Kitchen (yes, of course) – as it turns out, his dad and brother own the restaurant! We chatted until we got to my floor, about to part ways, when I realized that I had a correction to make: I don’t go to Carolina, I went to Carolina… and that’s when it finally hit me.
Just as quickly as it became a part of me, life as a Carolina student was no longer mine to claim – quad chilling under a Carolina blue sky, skipping class to sample the new flavors at YoPo and play with puppies… Struggling to stay awake at the UL, only regretting that skipped class a teensy bit. Stopping to admire a spectacular sunset framing the Belltower, after a hair-graying battle for parking on Stadium. Running to your best friend next door for impromptu movie nights… or to borrow a dress, because eight closets is better than one. Waiting in line for literally everything, from free t-shirts and blue books to basketball tickets. Running into half the senior class on Thursday nights at CFD. Eating back all the calories you burned dancing, because… Linda’s loaded sweet potato tots. All these things, and so much more, belong to the next classes of Tar Heels to live out. How lucky they are to have all of Carolina ahead of them.
In four short years, what was once a foreign place became my second home. A campus full of strangers became familiar faces and lifelong friends. I have learned and grown so much more than what my degree could tell you. I have lived, and laughed, and made memories I’m lucky enough to be able to taste twice through photographs. Of course it was far from perfect, and I know that the best is yet to come. Nevertheless, it’s important to me to pause and appreciate the experience I’ve been given for all of its ups and downs.
Whoever said that you shouldn’t look back or you’ll miss what’s in front of you, was wrong. You have to look back, to appreciate how far you’ve come. To remember what shaped you. Because while that Carolina life is no longer mine, what it has given me will always be part of me. I may not have been a Tar Heel born or a Tar Heel bred, but when I die I sure as hell will be a Tar Heel dead.