I was 18 years old, had no idea what I was doing, and felt super alone in a crowd of people.
Honestly, I could insert a variety of ages there, and that opening line would ring true. This time is specific, though. It is my first semester of college and I’m at my first sorority function. (Laugh with me here, let’s just picture how awkward I am.)
Naturally, like any other girl who feels out-of-place or doesn’t know what to do, I trekked to the bathroom because waiting in the line, checking my hair, and then proceeding back out would kill at least 15 minutes, right? I waited in line at the bathroom and watched a girl with super long, blonde hair talk to her friends. At a party where most people were drinking and where I was overwhelmed by my first taste of real college, she seemed pretty coherent and composed.
In typical Erica-fashion, I fumbled my way into the conversation and said the first thing that was on my mind: “Do you drink?”
And as every good story begins and ends: the rest is history. The girl with long, blonde hair, Blair, somehow laughed and wasn’t put off by my bluntness, and in the span of moments became my best friend, my big, my confidante, and like many other people I love deeply, a senior who graduated two weekends ago.
For purely selfish reasons, I have been dreading that weekend since October. Ultimately, I don’t know if I am actually dreading seniors leaving or if I’m dreading coming back to a place that I will not recognize without them. Ultimately, I really am incredibly selfish for wanting to keep the most influential, intelligent, and inspiring people at UA with me forever. While I don’t know if the world deserves their talents and love, the world (and so many other people) need them. So here is an incredibly overdue thank you to the greatest people I have met, to the people whose hands and hearts have shaped my life.
To the people who have reminded me what’s important — to those who remind me that honors are temporary and humility is eternal, to the ones that have celebrated the highs with me and simultaneously held me during the lows. To the friends that pick me up and drive me to the middle of nowhere at midnight on a Sunday night to talk, thank you. The laughs and lessons and love you have given me and imparted on so many people will never be forgotten.
To the people who pushed into me as I tried to pull away, thank you for being people who seek and people who dig. You guys will be the most incredible educators, PR gurus, business men and women, lawyers, and therapists because I’ve seen so many of you fight when it is not easy and push a little deeper when the answer seems obvious. Thanks for being people to look up to and also the people that are next to me, walking alongside of me. Thank you for always making time for a Starbucks date, answering a panicky phone call, and seeking others first.
To the people who cheered for me, poured into me, mentored me, and encouraged me, your efforts have left a wide and deep impact. You guys have taught me the difference between being significant and having significance. Thank you for being the friends that pray over me when I’m sick, that sit in the audience with me when I’m nervous, that believed in me when I couldn’t, and that physically pulled me out of bed on the mornings where it was hard to stand. Thank you for being by my side in glory, but remaining there through turmoil. You guys are the most profound world changers and live givers.
To the people who have shown me more of Jesus than I knew possible, I am forever grateful. To those who have picked up prescriptions when illness overcame, who have driven me thousands of miles (and who have let me drive their cars thousands of miles), thank you. To those who have reminded me that college is short and fast and that a grade is temporary, thanks for bashing my worth into me through gentle hugs and ice cream trips. To those that have shown me what courage looks like, boldness in the face of adversity, doing what’s right at the cost of what’s popular, thank you for leaving this campus better than you found it.
I’m an incredibly nostalgic person. I won’t be able to drive by Sonic, spots on the riverwalk, Nott Hall, and so many places on the strip without crying, but hey, smile through the tears, right?
And to Blair, thank you for being an answered prayer. You’re an answered prayer of mine and so many others. Thank you for being my mom’s third daughter and a friend to all of my friends. Thank you for church-hopping with me and then church-attending with me for three years straight. Thank you for knowing all of my Ohio friends by name — Katie and Meghan and Megan — and for being the point person when anyone needs to contact me. For all of the hospital trips, concerts, sushi burritos, sleepovers, pizzas, house parties, and prayers. For all of the miles on your car, meals I probably needed to pay you back for, and letting me listen to Kelly Clarkson; thank you. You have shown me the (literal) hands and feet of Jesus. New York is lucky to have you, and Tuscaloosa will miss you deeply.