Evans: Farewell, my friends

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | MAY 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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I’m graduating this weekend. Today is the last day that I will be a student at the University of Iowa, the last day I will live in Iowa City, and the last day I will reluctantly call myself a Hawkeye. I am not walking at the graduation ceremony, so if you’ll permit me the space, and the time, I’d like to share my own commencement address, what I have learned and experienced, with you, the readers of The Daily Iowan.

When I came to the University of Iowa, I followed a girl from my high school, an ex-girlfriend who wanted to major in photography and ended up going to the University of Northern Iowa instead. I stayed here, even though I had always rooted for ISU when the two football teams played and didn’t quite care for UI’s large campus or the way the Ped Mall smelled of dried beer and decomposing puke.

I stayed because of UI English Department’s reputation and the Creative Writing Workshop.

This was 2009, and the university was still recovering from 2008’s flood, just as the university is still recovering from it now. This was before the 21-ordinance, before the experience of getting drunk, before espresso and a thousand other things the college experience floods a person with.

I remember sitting on the Pentacrest lawn with a high-school friend whose name I can’t remember now, listening to Simone Renault — a woman of great intelligence and poise — give the student address to the freshman class of 2013. I was handed a poster with a checklist of all the things I could do during my four years at the University of Iowa.

Kiss someone on the steps of the Old Capitol, go to a football game, see the giant sloth, get lost by taking the wrong Cambus: “47 things you should do at Iowa.”

I did a lot of those things, most of them actually. I went to No Shame Theater; I ate grilled cheese from Marco’s; I spent late nights and early mornings both studying and drinking; I worked at this newspaper and at the college radio station, KRUI; I even dabbled in student government there for a semester.

At the end of it all, I expected, maybe naïvely, the great catharsis I had been promised in bold black and yellow letters on the university’s website. I expected something to deeply change my mind and broaden my existence, an emotional experience beyond words from the university.

But I felt nothing, I feel nothing for this institution; because after scrolling through my degree audit, a culmination of numbers and letters I have grown accustomed to predicting and defining my success in life, I realized my experience at the University of Iowa was not defined by how much work I did in Principles of Reasoning or what letter grade I received in Poetry Writing.

My life is no longer defined by my grade point, and with that liberation, I can see so clearly that the UI as an institution had nothing to do with my personal growth in the past four years. A diploma is nothing more than a piece of paper with a stamp of institutional approval, and a degree is nothing more than a title costing tens of thousands of dollars and four years of just showing up.

I can confidently say the UI has taught me nothing more than what I could have taught myself given a well-stocked library and a massive amount of free time, costing nothing more than the amount of a library card and the odd late fee.

But what I can also say with equal confidence is that my time in Iowa City is not measured by how many classes I took or credits I earned but by the people I have encountered and loved and will carry with me for the rest of my life.

To some of them, I owe my loyalty, to few of them, my life, but to all of them, I owe my thanks and sincere, humble gratitude for the time we have spent together. I wish everyone their due luck in all their future endeavors.

Farewell, my friends.

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