There’s a strange climate around the talk of “lasts”: the last home basketball game, the last round of midterms, the last spring break, the last semester of university, you get the gist. Oh sure, people will laugh and pump their fists when they speak of these lasts, taking inspiration from the finality of the whole ordeal to prompt themselves and others to live it up, reminding everyone that, you know, YOLO. And then people will laugh at the use of the phrase, “YOLO,” probably make fun of the individual that said it and go on smiling and joking and pushing the actuality of the lasts to the backs of their minds.
Truthfully, lasts are kind of scary. So whenever someone brings them up, I do the laughing, joking thing and pretend like it isn’t actually the last time I get a week off of work to hang out with my friends or the last time I’ll ever cram for a midterm or the last time I’ll ever get to start my day at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Crossing my fingers that that last one isn’t entirely true.
But the truly strange thing about lasts is what it does to our ideas about how these last things should go. It shouldn’t, but these lasts make the events attached to the word carry more weight than they usually would – suddenly, we find ourselves burdened with the pressure to make this last year, last semester, last spring break, last week of school the best that it has ever been. Any diversion from the plan of perfection makes our already unstable senior mental state plummet as we search to place blame on non-existent reasons to explain why life went differently than how we thought it should.
What a pity.
Even being aware of the effect that the dreaded word has on me does not shield me from the harrowing results of the L-word being uttered. It starts innocently enough, with a well-intentioned adult asking me how my l*** year of university is going and suddenly my palms are sweaty, my mind is racing and my mouth is blurting out unfiltered words like “internship” and “find a job” and “hopefully”. This seems to appease the adult crowd well enough, as I’ve found that anything having to do with you conducting an “aggressive job search” are the key words that they need to hear so that they smile approvingly and leave you well alone, their fears of being related to a backpack-laden, couch surfing, jobless youth assuaged.
Yet this is not how I want to live out my… er… final year of university – shielded behind shallow words and mindless conversations with adults or jokes and hesitant laughs that deter the reality of the impending moment where we trade in our sweats for suits and our red cups for black ties. Surely not realising that it is over until it’s, well, over is worse than accepting it all now and living as though the word “last” was nothing more important than a word paired with “call” at 2 o’clock in the morning?
Indeed, the idea of lasts only exists in a bounded mind-set. While this may be the “last” time we enjoy a spring break – a time for freedom, friends and travel – this is surely not the last time we encounter those elements associated with spring break. And while we may be saying goodbye to the precise experiences of cramming for tests and cohabitating with friends and winning trivia night at your local pizza bar, it is definitely not the last time we will feel the emotions, thoughts and feelings that accompany those singular events in our lives.
This kind of thinking is how I, at least, find a way to stop myself from rambling and blabbering and laughing and joking when I hear the word “last” describing an experience this year. To remind myself that ending my time here at Gonzaga is not an end to the beautiful things that have happened because of it. It is not the last time I will try to think profoundly and discuss things deeply and laugh at something way harder than need be and make jokes that no one laughs at whatsoever and feel love and kindness and harmony. For these sorts of things, the word “last” does not exist.