Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

TTLG: Having the Final Word

Former Mirror editor Omala Snyder ’24 closes out her time at Dartmouth with a reflection on learning how to say goodbye.

WOODSTOCKDE-315.jpeg

I’ve always avoided saying goodbye and instead resorted to the “Irish exit.” Whether it’s slipping out of  parties when it feels too awkward to alert people of my discomfort, or darting out of class to avoid an awkward conversation with a professor, I have always preferred not saying goodbye. After all, I’ll see them again, right? But with my four years at Dartmouth ending in four weeks, my point of view on saying goodbye has changed. 

Whether I’m walking to Still North to get my usual lavender latte, or lying on the Green basking in the sunlight, I have run into almost everyone I know on this campus more times this year than I could ever imagine. There’s a comfort in the faces that I glance at unknowingly, of people who I am not close with but recognize at the library or while walking across West Wheelock Street. I may never again see the faces of those that routinely wave at me across the Green, even though we haven’t spoken for longer than five minutes since taking Humanities I together freshman fall. But after leaving, I will no longer bump into the friends of friends who I sit with at dance performances or wave at my trippees across Foco. I wonder where life will take them and if I’ll see their faces again, on street corners or through windows.

Admitting that these are my last moments of college feels like giving into the finality, in some ways, of the end of my youth. If I refuse to say goodbye, does that mean it’s not the end? This is how I’ve always rationalized not saying goodbye in my mind — I never want to admit that a chapter has ended.

I think of the last time when my parents came to pick me up from school, when none of us knew that it would be the final time. There was a day where I wore my favorite tie-dye sweater as a kid for the last time. The day that I got coffee with one of my childhood friends for the last time. I didn’t know that it would be the last time. There are moments when I feel 12 again but then I blink and I’m back to being 22. 

I know part of me is being dramatic. I will see plenty of my peers in the years to come, whether by bumping into them on the subway as we hustle to work or keeping track of where in the world they are through Instagram. But another part of me realizes that this may be where my connection ends with some  — if not most — of the people I have met at Dartmouth.

I arrived in Hanover in the fall of 2020 with no idea what to expect. My dad dropped me off in front of Streeter Hall, since he wasn’t allowed inside due to social distancing restrictions. There I stood, boxes and bags surrounding me, ready to unpack my new life in a different country. I made friends spontaneously, through shy glimpses across corridors and group dinners sitting five feet apart on the Green. There was no structure, no rhyme or reason, to my new life. I may as well have not been at Dartmouth. And somehow, I was still one of the lucky ones — making friends in the fall and then, that winter, living in Boston felt like my life was starting to mobilize. 

The day after my freshman winter ended, on March 14, I received news that one of my friends who I had been living with in Boston had taken his own life. Two months later, another ’24 took their life, making it the third death in our grade in the span of nine months. I never thought that the last time I would see my friend Connor would be outside a Mexican restaurant in Malden, Mass. in March, a few nights before his death. I can’t even remember if we said goodbye. The gut-wrenching part of experiencing death so young is the guilt that it leaves you with for the rest of your life. The regret of celebrating new milestones without them — graduation this June being one of them.

My freshman spring, I was told that being angry at the College’s mental health and COVID-19 policies would not bring my friends back. I didn’t know where to put my rage or how to process it — it felt wrong to taint their memory with my own outrage and pain. For weeks, I went about my day like a ghost, half present, half awake. Part of me was stuck in the past, refusing to let go of a time when life felt normal. My body and mind existed in a state of denial and numbness, and when campus began to open up in my sophomore fall, I found avenues of distraction that helped me avoid confronting my grief. I know now that there is no “getting over” death. 

I feel a similar type of rage and guilt this spring, though this time against a political backdrop of distrust and fear. I am relieved to finally receive my diploma but also inspired by the strength of college students graduating across the country. From riot police being unleashed on peaceful protestors to the ongoing brutal suffering of Palestinians in my news feed, I feel as though I am always being told that there is nothing I can do. In those moments, I am taken back to my freshman spring where I stood hand in hand with friends as we mourned publicly on the Green. I felt helpless. I remember thinking, “Why didn’t people care that my friend had died? Why had it taken another death for a vigil to be held and lives to be honored?”

These feelings are cyclical and interconnected with my emotions over the last two weeks. What is the cost of remaining apolitical and silent on issues of morality? I have been reassured by the solidarity and compassion shown by so many on campus recently. But, over my last three years here, I’ve also learned that you have to get up every day, despite the grief, and live your life as though you are okay. There are times where I’ve choked back tears in class when we discuss or watch upsetting content. Times when I walk by someone who has made comments that offended me, but I’ve never confronted them about it. Times when I feel excluded by people who once felt like safe spaces. Despite these challenges, I am grateful for learning about perseverance in my time here.

One day, the nostalgia will set in and through rose-tinted glasses, I’ll forget about the bad parts. The seasons have come and gone four times over, and I have evolved, changed in slight and subtle ways. My hair is back to its natural color now, and I have a tattoo, more ear piercings and extra freckles on my face. I walk more confidently and without the sense that I am trying to run away from myself. I can make eye contact and not feel embarrassed. There are fewer parts of myself that I try to hide, and I know how to think for myself.

I have rarely been able to say goodbye on my own terms. Strangely, leaving without doing so feels like promising myself that I will return, a promise to sustain friendships and put in effort with those that have shown me love and vice versa. I don’t want to be the one who is always leaving first, without a word. There isn’t a right way to leave a place or a group of people, but there is leaving knowing that I gave my all to certain people and that I tried my best. My answer to this is a quote by the poet, Fortesa Latifi: “All my grief says the same thing. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. And the world laughs and holds my hope by the throat saying, but this is how it is.” And that’s how I’m saying goodbye.