The Little Things: Reflections From a Senior

Photo Credit: Ben Pauley

By the time this article comes out, I will have one and a half weeks of classes, two weeks of reading period and finals, and an extra senior week left of my time at Swarthmore. There have been lots of important events that have happened to me over the past four years here: I worked my first paid job, celebrated my 21st birthday, made a lot of new friends, etc. But alongside all the big things that have happened, there have been lots of small things that have added up to make the experience something unique, something that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. So, I want to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to all these things that otherwise would have gone unnoted.

  1. The woodpecker that hangs around outside of Cornell Library. I love that little guy/gal. I haven’t seen it recently, but it was a big staple of last semester for me. When I would coop up in the quiet section of Cornell library, telling myself that I would work on my astronomy homework when really I was hiding how I was watching YouTube on my phone, that bird would tap on the window nearest to me and make the most disruptive sound possible. I’ve taken several blurry pictures of it as it flew past the windows after spooking me, but I am thankful for the times that it helped me feel self-conscious so I would work on my homework instead of continuing to procrastinate.
  2. All the odd little rooms and spots all over the campus. As a long-standing college with lots of buildings both old and new, Swarthmore’s got a lot of hidden spots that are fun to find. Every time I go to McCabe Library, it always feels like I find a new corner room that has either a bunch of tables and chairs or rows of filing cabinets, and all of them provide a distinct study atmosphere that can really help curate exactly the mood you need to get your work done. But then you also get fun stuff like the shower in the basement of the Science Center or the semi-functional bathtubs in lodges-turned-clubrooms. And there are some neat, out-of-the-way spots like corners of the balcony at PPR or the creepy basement lounge in Mary Lyon’s basement. Finding out-of-the-way spots like these always makes me wonder, “Who has been here before me, who were the first people to find this spot, and what did they do with it?” It makes me feel like part of the history here.
  3. The time I was told that Essie Mae’s Cafe was real. I’ll admit that this is a bit of an embarrassing one, but I didn’t know where Essie Mae’s was until I was almost halfway through my third year. I remember being told that there was such a place in my first year, but I had never bothered to look for it. And with COVID making me live off-campus for a year, I forgot about it as anything more than a name I vaguely knew had to do with food. But then one night at the telescope on top of the Science Center, my astronomy group mates were talking about their favorite orders at Crumb Cafe and Essie’s, and when it came to be my turn to talk, I sheepishly admitted that I didn’t know where either was and had never really thought to ask about it. The most embarrassing part of the whole thing was that at the time I was living in Parrish, so I spent months sleeping maybe a hundred feet from the door to Essie’s (and where the Crumb Cafe would later be hosted too) without a clue that there was a whole cafe there.
  4. The persecution I face for loving Red Delicious apples. I actively seek out Red Delicious apples over other varieties of apples. And at Swat, this is apparently hands-down the most controversial quality of mine. Whenever anyone — from close friends to class acquaintances to SCREW dates — finds this out about me, I just feel the judgment pouring down. I have had people blame me for the overabundance of Red Delicious apples at restaurants that serve fruit, challenge me to a taste test to see if I can distinguish a Red Delicious from a tennis ball, or just tell me that I’m what’s wrong with society today. And I’ll give it to them: those are all very funny things to say. Even though they were “digs” at me, they were all parts of conversations with my peers that I’ve grown to appreciate greatly.
  5. Getting stuck in professors’ office hours. Most of the time when I talk with professors about their class or a project, it’s very straightforward: I bring up my questions, they answer them, then we politely say, “See you next class.” But sometimes, and I think this is when a professor is trying to put off doing something for their job, the process goes something like this: I bring up my questions, they go off on a tangent, and it takes an hour for us to just circle back to what I originally wanted to know. This extends across departments. I’ve had English, history, math, and astronomy professors host their office hours like this. While this can be frustrating sometimes if I want to go to dinner and we’re on the third “crazy and unintuitive result from physics principles” when I have five more homework problems to get through, these are often some of the most interesting conversations one can have while at Swat.
  6. The plants I’ve cared for and that have died. I am cursed when it comes to taking care of plants. Every year, there’s the big tradition we all love taking part in where the arboretum staff hands out free houseplants for us to put in our dorms. I have been taking part in this since I came here. The first one I received was a Donkey’s Tail succulent I named Johnson on a whim. I took care of it, and it did well until Spring Break in 2020 when it, unfortunately, died since my roommate and I couldn’t watch out for it anymore. Ever since then, every plant I have had has withered in my care no matter how much I try to care for it. But I never gave up hope; determined to carry on the memory of the first plant I lost, I’ve named each successive one after it. Tragically, Johnsons II-V all met similar fates, dying as I either waterlogged them or let them dry out. However, things have turned around for me since this St. Patrick’s Day. The clover seeds I planted that day have sprouted and, dare I say, flourish to this day.

All of this is to say that I am going to miss this place, and there are just going to be so many little things that I can’t even fit into a list, that have made my time here more meaningful than just taking classes and doing homework. There are a lot of people that I am going to miss, a lot of things I’ve grown accustomed to that will be hard to do without, and even future articles that I won’t be able to write. But I am grateful for the time that I have had here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I will be able to look back fondly on this chapter of my life for years to come.

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