Boxes and tassels

I was sitting at Heat pizza with some friends doing what all other college kids do — asking extremely thought-provoking questions over greasy bread and mozzarella cheese. What’s the opposite of love?

Hate was thrown out. Apathy, fear, lust, objectification and a few others bubbled up to the surface, too.

I don’t know what the opposite of love is. Maybe it is being neutral, or maybe it’s being terrified that holds us back. Heck, it definitely probably is being looked at for less than you’re worth, too. I don’t know.

But I do know what love is.

Because for the last 1,460 days I have felt it, held it, and fallen because of it.

And this Saturday, we walk. The tassel turns, and the confetti happens, and God-willing we will snap the pictures quickly. We will celebrate, and then we will pack. The Chacos, the picture frames, the memories, the shakers, the big hats, the ungodly amount of shirts. We will box up entire lives, from the first game-day wristband to the heartbreaking National Championship ticket. One-by-one, meticulously into each box.

Until it’s gone.

Until the boxes are put into the vans and the vans are driven back to Ohio, and just like that, it’s gone.

The love won’t be gone, though. The memories and the feelings and the love. It will look different, but it will not dissipate. I will miss that love — so full and so whole, but I’ll be missing a lot of other stuff, too.

I’ll miss the in-between, the waiting, and the gray area. College is cool because you choose your family. That’s what my Big said on her “goodbye” Instagram caption to me last year.

Yes, you read that correctly. You don’t choose your friends, you truly choose your family. You choose the people that will take you to the doctor or wait with you at the hospital. You choose the people who will go on runs with you at 6 AM just because, and the people who will stay out with you until 4 AM dancing. You choose the people who will make sure you get home safe, who will call you when they see you crying, who will show up just because they can.

I’ll miss the ability to have people show up for you, and to do it for them. I’ll miss the karaoke and the had-to-be-there moments and the midnight sushi and late-night fries. I’ll miss all of my friends being friends, having so many people I love stuffed into a five-mile radius. I’ll miss the long walks around the quad right before sunset. The life chats, the eye contact that knows you. We’ll miss running into people we know, everywhere we go. I think I may miss that the most. That in the middle of the afternoon I can see someone I love just by walking to a class.

I’ll miss the classes I hated, the professors that challenged me, and the people who endured through with me. I’ll miss being able to study with people who will take intermissions for doughnut runs and political debates. The debates that have changed me and opened my eyes and softened my shell.

I’ll miss messing up during a time that it is totally okay and socially-acceptable to mess up. I’ll miss having people that just get it. And really they “get it” because they get you. They know who to look at when Sean Kingston comes on because she’ll be dancing. They understand the dates and anniversaries that suck and are dark and painful. They know you say you hate surprises but throw them for you anyways, because truthfully, who doesn’t love one? I’ll miss my sentences being finished.

I’ll miss yelling Roll tide. And sometimes there’s an M-F combination in the middle of those two words.

I’ll miss the hugs, the really long ones, the ones where your shoulders drop a couple inches when you didn’t even know you were holding them up with tension. But I know I have more of those in my future.

I’ll miss the amazing grace I have so tangibly held. But I know it’ll come with me.

Alabama’s not like a lot of other places, for better or for worse. We all know this. We all have our niches and the letters and symbols we let define us. We invest ourselves deeply in things that won’t matter when we wake up Sunday morning, and we sometimes forget that the rest of the world doesn’t live in this elusive bubble.

Love, however, still matters when the sun comes up Sunday morning because, like it or not, it will rise.

And as the sun begins to soar, so will we.

Promise me this. Promise me you’ll take your love with you. That’s the most valuable thing. Beyond your degree and fancy cords; it’s love. That’s the thing that I so desperately know I’ll miss, but I also know is forever.

Please don’t box it up. Don’t box up the inexpressible and glorious feeling.

And simultaneously while I’ll miss it, while my title will flip from student to alumni, I say bring it on.

Bring on the weddings, the spouses we haven’t met yet, the jobs we will definitely hate but have worked so hard for, and the future group texts that are still to be created. Bring on the next bucket-list items, elections we’ll grumble about, and mistakes ready to be made. Bring on the love.

We are ready for it.

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