Rethinking existence as graduating senior


Seth Novak 24′ is majoring in Government and American Studies. He works with the Conduct and Honor Advisory Program and the Community and Civic Engagement office. Contact him at

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

Once again, we are being ambushed by time. Somehow, some way, another semester has ended. And another is beginning, and on and on and on, until it doesn’t. Time has passed a little too quickly for comfort this time around, and I’m mad. What are we even supposed to do for a semester? Learn, I suppose, but there are so many other things that must also be done with utmost importance. We’re here to make mistakes, to succeed, to fall on our faces. I come back each semester to learn a little more about myself, and I can’t do that by just sitting in a classroom. 

I don’t quite believe I’ve done a good job of that this semester, so I implore you all to examine yourselves, just as I am. Stop and think for a little while, wonder what you’ve been up to. Looking backwards is a good way to move forwards. Maybe not to excess, but let us rewind our last semester. Let us think about what it has done to us, and what we have done to it. What exactly did each one of you do that further defined yourselves? Rarely is this done on purpose. Instead, it happens without our knowing, and one day we wake up a different person than the one we were the day before. Think critically about what moments molded you into yourself.

Frankly, I’m annoyed. I have one more semester left, and I’m wasting it all away! Since even before I came to this wonderful institution, I have tried to escape it. First, it was transferring, and now the name of the game is graduating early. I’m not even really sure what is being wasted, though. Maybe one of you knows. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s impossible to waste time — that it all is worth it somehow. I hope that in every moment, I’m growing, one way or another. I can’t really know for sure, because we don’t grow on a linear path. There are detours along the way, but does that really count as wasting time? I don’t think it is.

If I’m wasting time, though, what should be the operationalization of it? What scientific measurements can we use to understand wasted time? Maybe I’ve wasted a good bit of it this semester (sorry Mom), but I don’t know how. Maybe it was staring at my phone, oversleeping, not sleeping enough or maybe watering my plants. In all these actions, though, I find myself reflecting. I always end up asking why I’m doing it. There’s always a reason behind what you do, so spend some time finding those reasons.

Really, really think about what your last semester has meant to you. Think about it as you’re walking to class, or even as you’re in class. Waste some time thinking about time. If you couldn’t tell, I sure do. This is asking a lot of you, but I swear it’s worth it. This is all an attempt to help us figure ourselves out, and there is no better time to do it than now.

Perhaps that’s the wrong angle on it. Instead, how are we to come to terms with yet another chapter being closed on us without our permission? I didn’t ask for that. I don’t exactly know what I asked for, but fall 2023 could have stood to be a little longer. All I see are days passing me by, and I’m just along for the ride. With no agency, you and I are standing on a train, stumbling backwards as it surges forwards. Time continues its march forwards, riding on tracks that don’t show the next turn. Understanding it this way, it becomes about bracing ourselves for when the train will stop next.

We know that semesters are limited by hours and minutes and seconds, so instead of asking how it has ended already, focus on what we gained from it. I’m asking what last semester has meant to you, to me, to anyone. I am telling myself, and you, that we don’t have to fall every time. We can grab the handrail, and maybe just sway with the thundering of the train. There is no difference between it meaning something or nothing, only that you still experienced it. 

So, what happens this semester? I haven’t a clue, but I will reminisce on my time here, ponder my completely unstructured future (I have no job prospects at the moment) and spend little time in the present. I shouldn’t, though, so I’ll try to accept yesterday, tomorrow and also today. When it finally comes around. You should too. Stop for a moment every so often next semester, take a deep breath and recognize where you are. We are a culmination of everything we once were, and sometimes we have to remember that. 

Salutations to all the versions of you and I, refractions of a human still to grow.


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