Widgets Magazine


Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Last but not least…

We all remember the “firsts.” Pasted into scrapbooks, framed on the wall, documented in writing, they surround us with memories of the beginning. First word, first step, first day of school, first kiss, first love, first loss. These are the stuff of stories, easily recalled at family reunions and dinner parties.

But how often do we remember the “lasts”?

Whether I like it or not, my time for “firsts” at college is coming to a close. Halfway through senior year, the moment I never thought would actually come – graduation – is barreling toward me. Where did all that time go? I remember thinking about high school graduation in a similar way: one of those oh-so-distant events that I knew would have to happen in theory but couldn’t picture in reality. Only this time around, college graduation is that much more of a surreal milestone; it’s practically hitting me between the eyes, and I still can’t fully process the reality.

The thought of my last day of college is a little terrifying. But what really scares me, more than graduation itself, are all the other “lasts” that get lost along the way. At least I can ready myself for my last day as a Stanford undergraduate. But will I really remember the last time I walk through the Quad? Or buy coffee from the Bookstore? Or say “hi” to those same two cashiers at TresEx? Those are the little moments that I won’t realize are happening until they’re over.

Where do all the “lasts” go? They are elusive, hard to pin down or identify. There’s no way to know when the last time we see our parents will be. Or the last time we kiss our boyfriend or girlfriend goodbye. Or the last time we’ll sit down for coffee with a best friend. Or the last time we’ll think of ourselves as children.

Certain “lasts” are out of our control. But there are others we have more of a say in. As hard as it is to know that the end point is approaching, at least we have more opportunities to make each preceding moment count. We can choose to fill our time with more firsts and more meaning. We can take advantage of every moment on hand, so that when the “last” is finally here, we’re content with what came before.

It’s a challenge, to say the least. I’ll be the first one to admit not being particularly adept at it. I mean, let’s be real: once I finish my columnist stint, my sanity will more than likely go down the tubes without these obligatory weekly reminders. As much as I’ve griped over deadlines and column ideas, I’ll actually be sad to let this huge time suck go. Now that I only have one last shot, I can’t believe I was ever at a loss for words. There’s so much I left unsaid.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this last column. Number 13 to be precise. What I wanted it to say, and what I wanted to leave you with. So, in the spirit of “lasts,” please indulge me in a short take-away moment. If you (or I!) get anything out of this column, I hope it’s this:

Life isn’t a constant trajectory. It has its ups and downs. It zigzags. It bobs and weaves and traverses shaky terrain. We can never know for certain where we’ll be 15 years down the road or where we’re ultimately heading. But every moment is a step in a given direction. And as long as you take each step with purpose, chances are that you’ll end up where you want to be. When you live a life of satisfying moments, you’ll end up with a satisfying life.

I feel like this column has been a bit of a downer, but that really wasn’t what I intended. The point was that it’s never too late to turn a year of lasts into a year of more firsts. I don’t have a choice about graduating on June 17. That date is set in stone. But I do have a choice in how to live my life up until that point. There may only be half a year left at Stanford, but what a half a year it will be.

So, until then, wish me luck on the journey! I wish you the same. Let’s see if we can both follow my own advice.

Luckily for you, this isn’t the last time you’ll have to hear from Leslie. You can always email her at labrian “at” stanford “dot” edu.