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Cruzn w/Jake-Closing The Book
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It was the same old speech I’d heard a thousand times before. Something positive and uplifting, but nothing really authentic or new. So instead of listening to the speaker, I was reading some sort of graduation guideline handout and daydreaming about something more interesting. Now it’s been almost two years since I didn’t hear that speech.
My father and I had come to “Transfer Student Orientation” day to take official pictures, enroll in some classes, and all that jazz. We had spent the previous half hour stealing extra sandwiches from the fancy buffet table, and eating our lunch on the steps, under the trees, and away from the other family units.
Here they had separated students from parents, and us transfers were getting an earful about the things we should do and try, the people to ask advice for, and basically everything else we were going to figure out anyway. It was during that moment of anonymity and boredom that the speaker sharply caught my attention. I don’t know who she was, but I remember what she said.
“Two years goes by quickly, don’t forget that. Make the most of your time here; because before you know it, you’ll be graduated and gone.”
Instantly feeling anxious about doing as many things as possible with my time at college, I paid rapt attention to the rest of her speech about clubs and sports.
Today, about 20 months later, I turned in my last piece of academic work. With the exception of a drawn out ‘commencement’ ceremony, this stretch of my college career is over. And now that same question has been nagging me incessantly: did I make the most of my time here? I’m graduated and this close to being ‘gone’ so was this everything it was supposed to be?
Heck yes it was.
I don’t know how to properly summarize the last two years without writing an oversized novel, but I do know I would never have wanted to miss any of it. So how am I supposed to explain how this was a success in the simplest terms? I think it all boils down to how many memorable moments a person might have versus how many they did have in a situation like this. And after mentally counting off the things I’ve done, I notice that they all involve my friends.
Would going to all those Republican conventions and meeting those congressmen and other political figures have been any fun without a car full of restless weekend warriors with me? Probably not. Would sitting through mind-numbing hours of certain lectures have been possible without the occasional game of neighborly Hangman? Definitely not.
This year I was fortunate enough to visit other famous parts of the world, and meet with families and people from different nations. But I promise you it would not have been worth the time had there not been five of us UCSC kids making that trek together.
But even then, after all the jobs, sports, and classroom lectures, it’s the unceremonious moments that I’m probably going to keep with me forever. After the trips to different cities in California, or even walking underneath the Eiffel Tower, I know everything I have done that is worthwhile in college will be because of the people I was with at the time.
It’s sitting in the Oakes computer lab during finals week with everyone I know hogging up a corner for ourselves. It’s going downtown and playing too many games of pool. It’s even getting 20 people together to play a fierce game of kickball on an otherwise boring Sunday.
So there; that’s how I measure the success of time spent at college. Given that actually getting your degree might count as “winning,” I know that the speech-giver back from orientation day could use a summary of my time spent here as a success story for her next big oration.
And so now what? If college is a success, what does that mean for my future? The honest, anxious truth is I’m unsure of what’s going to happen to me now. As I look for jobs and peruse other life paths, I have no idea where I’m going to end up in the coming months. But this is okay, because no matter what comes, I have been prepared for it by these past years. I am ready for the next stage in my life, whatever it might be.
And no matter how you look at it, that is a successful college graduation.
I’d like to thank everyone for reading my accounts of the last two years in The Oakdale Leader. It makes all the difference when someone comes up and points me out as ‘that kid from the Leader!’ because it lets me know that someone, somewhere actually took time to read about my life. I hope you’re ready for summer, Oakdale, and I look forward to visiting home soon.

Jake Cummins served as a summer intern for The Oakdale Leader and now attends UC Santa Cruz. Look for his columns the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, as he keeps us up to date on his college experiences. He can be reached at