The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

I spent my first night at Carolina picking through the dollar-spot at Target and trying to find someone, anyone, to bond with over neon shower caddies. UNC had organized a shopping trip for freshmen, and as an out-of-state student hunting for friends, I had thought to try my luck in high-density activities.

But it was to no avail. I did run into a senior who — after learning that I had all of college stretched out before me — gushed over how jealous she was.

Standing beneath the fluorescent lights in the Target checkout as the seconds plodded past, I did not believe her.

After all, I had not wanted to come to UNC. Where I was from, school spirit clogged your arteries like fat. Basketball games simply had too many points to cheer for, and Carolina orientation weekend left me with one image: too many people and too many mosquitoes trying to inhabit the same swamp-thick air.

But now, as any senior facing the looming maw of the real world — populated by such nefarious and alien beings as time sheets and ornery bosses and fax machines that seem to be always-already broken — I am poring back over the past four years with nostalgia.

What happened?

The story of how I fell in love with Carolina is not a simple one. It would take a profusion of words — many more than my editor would allow me, or that anyone would want to read.

Nor is it a linear arc. Carolina seduced me through a smattering of afternoons and evenings, late mornings and sunrises seen without sleep.

Insert all of the typical images here: lying on the quad, drinking beer on the TOPO patio, cramming in Davis during finals while glaring at the students watching YouTube videos, discovering Carrboro, then Durham, loving and hating the term paper you’re immersed in, and laughing, laughing often and laughing hard, with some of the brightest people you’ll ever meet.

Or perhaps it is a simple story. Perhaps what I truly fell in love with was how time passed here. It moves differently at Carolina than I have experienced it anywhere else. Time flows over and through you in a great green rush, coursing by you and dragging you along, head over heels, in its current.

But then there are also those moments in which time ebbs and pools in corners, in which it eddies and folds back on itself. Everything slows, and we dwell for a spell in the coffee shop or the bar or perched on the bus, intimately aware of our presence in this place.

How lovely it is to live like this — to feel as if every day rushes up to grab you, to carry pearls of memories about in your pocket.

Leaving college means that we must not only get used to a new routine with new people, new tasks, new social rules for when and how much to drink, but we will also have to adjust to a new sense of pace.

Freshmen: It will go so fast. So fast. And it should.

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