During my Freshman Orientation (many moons ago), one of the things that struck me the most about the student body was how dramatically and enthusiastically the upper classmen reunited with one another. As the older students began to trickle onto campus, they would leap into each other’s arms in front of the soda machine in proctor, screaming and flailing, would cry and laugh and fall all over each other, as if they were unable to comprehend how they could’ve ever survived spending any time apart. As a first year, my observations of these reunions were tinged with curiosity, confusion and, perhaps most potently, envy—I couldn’t fathom ever getting that close to anybody, or so actively mourning what seemed to me a small, two-month separation.
But of course time passes and we all learn to celebrate the smallest of reunions with as much gusto as if years and oceans had separated us, even if it were only a three-week stint at home for winter break. One might say that it’s simply a longing for friends and for a place that represents the most independence that any of us have had up to this point, but I’d argue that the reasons for our cherishing of these reunions are varied and certainly more complex than a simple missing of a roommate or a lunch at Atwater Dining Hall.
In many ways, the people we meet here are the witnesses to some of the most significant firsts in our lives: witnesses to our first sips of alcohol, first loves, discoveries of life-long passions, heartbreak. When we leave this place (either for home or for another city, school or country) we leave behind the people who have seen our transformations, have accepted and celebrated our fractures and mistakes, people we no longer need to explain things to—reuniting with these people is like reuniting with our own histories.
In this coming week of reunions, I encourage everyone to hug too tightly and linger too long over tea and reminisce about stories that are too embarrassing to tell to anybody else. One of the things that I will miss most about Middlebury is this reuniting of hearts and minds because, when done right, reunions can strike like lightning—my hope for you all is that you’ll cherish the spark and flame.