A Senior’s Train Ride Home: An Editor’s Last Note

Elena Rouse, Former Culture Editor

About two weeks ago, I sat in a train’s window seat. I was on what would be one of my final treks from Villanova to my home in Massachusetts. 

For those of you who don’t know, that ride is about five and half hours. I usually drive, but I opted for the train and let my sister, a Villanova junior, have the car for her classes that lasted days after mine, because I’m such a martyr. The train felt very much like a time capsule, sending me backwards to my underclassmen days when I took it home for school breaks. 

Stop after stop, I watched people board and depart. There were late sprinters, a young couple whispering “I love you, goodbye” through tears, preppy Connecticut families and, of course, other college students just like me. 

How did I know they were college students? They wore their college sweatshirts. 

And it got me thinking. 

I have always had a sweatshirt that defined my belonging. A sports team, dance group, high school and then college. As I sat, I realized that once I graduate, I will no longer have something to don that tells the world, “I made it and belong here. I’m so proud to be a part of this place that I wear it on my chest for the world to see.”

In a broader sense, up until now, my life’s structure rested on my education. Even time itself has been defined by the next grade, winter, spring and summer breaks. Without these guardrails, the future presents unlimited possibilities. 

Unlimited possibilities, as it turns out, can be the cause of insomnia-inducing terror, as much as they can be the cause of hope. Yes, things change, but as a senior in college, it feels as though that means that everything from the smallest details, like a sweatshirt, to the very fabric of time.

Talk about a bleak train ride, am I right?

Yet, there’s nothing I can do. Premature nostalgia is everywhere when you’re a senior. I can’t walk through the Quad without a dramatic look to my Sullivan window, memory after memory of hang-outs on the grass below like a flip-book in my brain. I can’t help but get a jab in my gut when the sun sets like a painting to the sounds of my roommates laughing about some absurd joke. 

That’s what happens when four formative years that alter a person’s heart and soul teases with their imminent end, along with the last frayed tethers of childhood. 

Every senior is going through this same whirlwind. The future terrifies and perhaps excites us, but its very existence also reminds us that the bubble of the Villanova-here-and-now, where we’ve learned, grown and loved, won’t last much longer. (Any seniors reading this, you feel me, or am I getting too meta on you?) 

Endings are never easy. Especially when things seem to just be getting good, and the best, brightest, kindest people you’ve ever met seem to shine even brighter. That’s just life though. Like a train, it moves on, even if you’re not necessarily ready for it.

However, as I sat on that train going from one home to another, these thoughts about sweatshirts and the unknown didn’t induce tears (this time, anyway) but made me smile. 

That’s due to the fact that Villanova is what Villanova does, and what it does, is last. It lasts through love. 

The truth is, though I graduate soon, I won’t retire my Villanova sweatshirt. I won’t need to, for because I have experienced love on these hallowed grounds, its impact will stay with me. I will always belong to Villanova, and it will always be a part of me.

Before I go, I’d like to thank you, Villanova, you old sport. Thanks for the church bells, and for an education that didn’t just challenge my mind, but my confidence and work ethic. 

Thank you for the newspaper and every Tuesday production. Thank you for that history class freshman year, where an open seat in front of me led to meeting a best friend, and for all the moments after that brought me to the rest of them. Thank you for bringing my older brother, younger sister and me together for one glorious year where we were all Villanovans at the same time. 

Thank you, Villanova, for making every long train ride worth it and more. 

Lastly, to my fellow Villanova seniors, bear with me. I’m about to unleash my inner theater kid. In the musical Les Misérables, there’s a lyric that reads, “To love another person is to see the face of God…”

I see that truth everywhere in my cherished moments with so many of you. 

And the next time the wind picks up and you grab a trusted sweatshirt to keep you warm, I hope you take two seconds (or maybe even just one) to remember what it means to wear Villanova’s name and how some things, in special and unexpected ways, can last forever.