So, hi. I graduated.
My last weekend in Baltimore, I did my usual Saturday morning routine—a visit to the farmers' market, then two blocks over to The Book Thing—and was entirely unprepared for how nostalgic it felt to buy my last loaf of bread, pull my last book selections from the familiar shelves (two Zadie Smiths, plus a collection of Edith Wharton short stories). I remembered, all at once, how our freshman year house used to walk to the supermarket together and take turns lugging a huge case of water bottles back. At the Book Thing, I stopped for the first time in four years to read their welcome sign: We cannot be held responsible for bibliomania.
Other than that, though, the end of my college chapter didn't feel any different. I crammed for exams furiously and pieced together projects; desperately tried to funnel research papers into my brain for my final (seminar) presentation; nagged professors about posting grades; ordered takeout with my roommates; and got sick in the middle of the week. (On a less grueling note, there were also late-night chats, Game of Thrones viewing parties, and impromptu lunch outings with friends.)
Even post-finals was the same old routine: I tidied up my room, wrote thank you cards, got a haircut. Graduation was surreal (I brought the Edith Wharton collection with me), and the day after, when I packed up my life in Baltimore and drove it home, was too much of a potpourri, helter-skelter affair for me to really parse.
In the end, I think what struck me the most was the gradual understanding, in the weeks following, of how my Baltimore world has nestled itself in my heart. The here-and-there realizations of how I've changed and not changed at all since I first moved to campus with a slightly (completely?) different carload of belongings. The cravings for nearby restaurants; the spontaneous chats with friends; the peace of a brisk walk across campus, or on the sidewalks towards home. It's funny how four years in one place can shape your thoughts, fill you up with new routines and opinions and characteristics.
When I left for college, I was terrified to leave my town, worried that venturing off to a new, exciting place would somehow change the old things I loved best. Now, saying goodbye to Baltimore, I'm a little wistful, but mostly happy: glad that there's so much I adore about my college years, and grateful I'll be able to carry them with me as I turn the page and begin a new chapter.