Dear Class of 2022

By: Shannon Francolini

This is not the end of an old book, but the start of a new chapter. We are experiencing new beginnings & leaving behind old ones. We are kissing and hugging our dearest friends goodbye, shutting the front door to a place we have called home these last four years. We are thanking professors, faculty, and mentors for their unconditional support through such unprecedented times. But as we wipe away our tears of sadness, we also wipe away tears of joy, accomplishment, pride, and determination. Every second it has taken to get to this moment has been earned. We have physically put blood, sweat, and tears into our degrees and that doesn’t just disappear as we walk across the stage. We have built relationships and we have lost some, we have studied and we have failed, but we have also prepared and beat the odds. Even though I try to see the brighter side of things, this is only because we have experienced the depths of the darkness together. College is an accomplishment alone, moving away from home, leaving behind everything you’ve ever experienced to venture out into the unknown. Starting from scratch and becoming the author of our own stories, letting people meet versions of ourselves that we continue to create. We are not the same people we were walking in these doors and we sure as hell will not be the same people as we walk out of them. 

I write to you today to encourage you all to take a step back and breathe. Envision the mountains around us, the crisp fall air, the chillness in the foggy, rainy days. We become the environment we surround ourselves with. As much as it is sad to leave behind such beautiful scenery, think of all the glorious places life will take you. Whether you’re traveling back home or traveling 3,000 miles across the world, the beauty is in the journey. Whatever it took to get you here to Plymouth State, that same magic will take you places you could never have imagined. & the best part of it all, is that we will forever have this little town, that we all sometimes despise, to call home. We can circle back to the mountains, take a step back, & breathe. We can release all that we feel and remember all the success & achievements we received because of Plymouth State. The past four years have truly felt like four minutes, and I can remember in some of those moments I never thought this would end. Yet here we are, in the blink of an eye, in our early twenties, about to start our lives, or so we think. The unique part is that life has already started. We’ve spent the past four years growing up whether we all admit it or not. The scary part isn’t starting a ‘new life’ but leaving behind an old one. 

When people die, no matter what you believe, those memories will never fade away. You may miss the sound of their voice, the comfort of their touch, or the serenity of their presence. But the truth of it is, you have embodied every concept that person left on this earth. You may feel so far away, so out of touch from their soul, that you start to lose sight of your own. Leaving college might feel like a death to some people, it might feel like a loss of something so special, important, and familiar. I challenge you all, that when you start to feel sad or lost after we leave here, you remember all the good that came out of it. You remember, that these memories are not lost or dead, they’ve just been rearranged into different parts of your soul, parts that now make you whole. 

I’ve always described PSU as the missing piece to my puzzle, that when I came here I finally felt complete, like I had somewhere that I felt like I truly belonged. But that gut feeling has now returned. Instead, I don’t feel like there is a piece missing but I wonder where my next journey will take me, where it will lead me to my next missing piece. I am nervous, excited, curious, yet I feel so fulfilled & wholesome. I know we are all experiencing a tornado of emotions. But like in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy eventually found her way home. She clicked her feet together, reminded herself of her end goal, that ‘no place that quite feels like home’, trusted her intuition, and followed the ‘yellow brick road’. Yet in this story, home is the heart that beats within your chest and the yellow brick road is wherever your two feet may take you. Trust in the journey, embrace the journey, and love the journey. You have so much to be proud of & I wish you the best of luck wherever your yellow brick road may take you.