It’s Week 5 of spring quarter. As members of the senior and co-term class of 2012 continue to go about our daily routines, a strange realization is sinking in: We’re graduating. And we’re graduating pretty soon. We’ll never be Stanford undergrads again. And although some of us may return to campus as University employees, graduate students or Panda Express customers, it just won’t be the same.
Because our time as undergraduates is ending, everything we do has acquired the new characteristic of being the “last” thing. This spring becomes the last spring, that midterm is now the last midterm and Exotic Patriotic is (probably) your last Exotic Erotic. The knowledge that everything will soon end creates a sort of frenzy: the Last Chance Syndrome.
This obsession with the “last-ness” of everything is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be kind of good when it motivates you, serving as a friendly reminder: “Attention: this is your last chance to try [insert name of thing you haven’t done yet]!” For four years, everyone told you about everything you should do at Stanford. And for four years, you told yourself, “I can do that some other time.”
But the clock ticks particularly fast by May of your senior year, and suddenly the Last Chance Syndrome catches hold. And that’s why, in the final days of spring, you can see the masses of seniors flock to the top of Hoover Tower. After years of commenting on its phallic shape, they suddenly realized that it was their last chance to climb it, and off they went. Other seniors made their first-ever visits to The Dish, the cactus garden and the elusive Thai Café.
It’s not only your last chance to do things, but it’s also your last chance to see a lot of people. After Stanford, your friends will scatter across the world or, if you’re co-terming, across Escondido Village (pretty much the same thing). You will lose them to high-paying jobs and grueling graduate school programs.
The pressure to meet up with all those old friends is a common aspect of Last Chance Syndrome. Have you seen your freshman-year roommate in the past two years? No? Better get lunch! Is it time to tie up some loose ends with your ex-girlfriend? With all of your ex-girlfriends? Bring on the coffee dates! After all, now’s your last chance.
This brings us to the bad outcomes of the Last Chance Syndrome, because sometimes it makes you do things you didn’t actually want to do again. Even though you only fountain-hopped once before, and even though you didn’t love the experience, you suddenly realize that this is your last chance to do it…a second time.
Or maybe you find yourself eating lunch with someone you haven’t seen in two years just because you know you won’t be able to do it again. Is that a good enough reason to do it? Ask yourself why you didn’t see this person during the past two years and whether you genuinely enjoy spending time with him/her. Hopefully your answer to the second part is “yes.”
It’s annoying to constantly question what you’re doing, but I’ve found that the worst symptom of the Last Chance Syndrome is the constant pressure to have the time of your life. Whether it’s the last supper or the last dance, it has to be meaningful. And as time grows ever more precious, each activity is held to a higher and higher standard. None of your last-chance activities can possibly afford to be anything less than absolutely awesome.
So as you walk the Dish for the last time, as you stand in line for an omelet at Wilbur, the nagging thought remains, “Is this worthy of being the last time? Am I having an awesome time right now? What other awesome last things should I be doing?!” The pressure to cram a ton of meaningful last things into a few short weeks grows by the day.
The problem is that you may not be having an awesome time after all.
So seniors: if you didn’t particularly like that one student group co-president of yours, don’t feel obligated to grab dinner. If you hated the feeling of rubbing up against 100 scantily clad, sweaty bodies, then don’t go to Exotic Erotic. If you didn’t love it the last couple times, don’t do it just because it’s the last one. Spend your final undergrad moments doing what you have loved at Stanford and spend those moments with the people you love as well.
Don’t overthink it, but this could be the last time you send a message to Miriam at melloram “at” stanford “dot” edu.