With a month until graduation, I’d love to be writing about how excited I am and what the future holds. But I would feel like a phony if I wrote about being happy when I’m not. Instead, I’m grieving because of the Tribe members who have lost their lives this year. I want and need to grieve. God forbid I become callous and write a sappy blog about how much I love being a senior here when such a tragedy happens within our community.
But do we have a real community? I often fear we don’t. We only post photos of “One Tribe, One Family” when tragedy happens. Why does it take the death of a student for us to realize that we need to be a family? Why do we only come together when we feel we must? Don’t misunderstand me. I’m thankful that we come together during times of trouble, but I wish there were another way of bringing about togetherness besides a fellow student’s passing.
As I near graduation, I’m contemplating what sort of legacy I’ll leave on campus. It’s a shame I didn’t think about it at the beginning of my freshman year; if I had, I might have changed certain ways I spent my time. And, I wonder, are we all trying to leave the wrong legacy? Are we so concerned with being remembered for our intelligence, our leadership, our athletic and musical prowess that we neglect the people around us — the very people we call our friends? I know I’ve been guilty of this.
I think we need to start reevaluating what we want to be known and remembered for. We think investing our time in people isn’t worth it because most people will move in and out of our lives. If we create a great work of art, make a great scientific discovery or win a national championship, we think the fame will outlast the time we put into another person. We think death will not dominate us because we will survive through our accomplishments. But this view is wrong. Author Mitch Albom wrote, “Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.” We seniors will soon leave the College of William and Mary, but we will linger through love because love trickles down. Next year’s freshmen will not know who we are, but they will be loved by the classes we loved above them, just as we were loved by the classes above us. Love’s roots grow deep and spread from person to person in a way that success cannot. I don’t mean that success in itself is bad. We should strive to be accomplished, but our friends should always come first.
I am saddened, broken and shaken by the student deaths this past year, yet I’m left in awe by how these students are remembered because of the love they showed their friends on campus. Let their lives be reminders that we should focus less on success and more on people. Let us strive not just to make “One Tribe, One Family” a status we share, but an idea that we express daily by putting our friends above our personal success.
I’m not saying I have all the answers to how to make our student body a better community. I don’t. When tragedy comes, we’re always left with more questions than answers. But I do believe these deaths show that we’re more connected than we ever thought, and the way to fight death is to strengthen those connections. I’m so thankful for the connections I’ve made with my graduating class, and I hope and pray that those connections will deepen even as we go our separate ways upon graduation.