As I write this, it’s the evening of St. Patrick’s Day in Ann Arbor, and for perhaps the first time all day, the city is silent. Every television in town is tuned to the same network with the same three numbers lit across the bottom of every screen: 61, 63, 3.6. I look around me to see two friends staring intently at the screen, two other friends with their heads on the table, hands anxiously running through their hair, and the final member of our group still standing at the bar, afraid that any movement he makes might further jinx the game.

Isaiah Livers inbounds the ball to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who dribbles down the court and dishes it out to Jordan Poole. Poole rises off the ground, legs jutting out like a cross between the Jumpman logo and a newborn calf, the ball cutting through the net as time expires. The backboard turns bright red, signifying the game is in fact officially over, and the other spectators explode around us. The 22 year old in front of me stands up on top of our table screaming, cheap beer spilling everywhere. I go to high five the man I assume to be a dad behind me, who slaps away my hand and gives me what might be best described as a bear-hug, my feet leaving the floor as we embrace.

Undergraduates, Ph.D. students and families alike celebrate together in the bar, and as we walk through the door into the oddly warm Ann Arbor evening, I realize this exact scene is consistent in every bar, restaurant and home around us. Strangers are hugging and high fiving, hoots and hollers are coming from every direction and even the occasional glass bottle is being smashed in the typical fashion of an aggressive, testosterone-fueled college celebration.

So, what’s the point of this anecdote? Well, I can only speak for myself, but with only five weeks left before I retire from my career at the University of Michigan, shift the tassel on my graduation cap to the other side and officially become alum, I feel like I already have one foot out the door here. I’ve spent much of my free time thinking about the future, looking for apartments in the city I will be moving to next fall and putting together summer plans to enjoy the time between graduation and employment. I’ve felt lethargic at times, unmotivated to invest more in my life and relationships here when I will be moving away from many of my commitments and the people around me so shortly. The many experiences that once brought me great joy and defined my University experience, from walking to class and watching the oversized squirrels eat lunch, to laughing with friends as we all enter the library comically late to cram for midterms, now feel like cathartic lasts.

These feelings and experiences over my past semester have made me feel ready to leave Ann Arbor, to hit the refresh button on my life and throw myself into my next chapter. I’m ready to leave the parties that have become stale, peers who I feel disconnected from and classes in which I am simply going through the motions.

But when Jordan Poole hit that three-point shot, I realized something. It wasn’t just the entire bench of Michigan players and the city of Ann Arbor that rose to their feet. U-M students studying abroad all over the world, from Argentina to Spain to Hong Kong, were all watching live-streams on their laptops and cell phones, celebrating. Simultaneously, alumni in cities across the globe were clapping their hands and yelling in public, continuing the traditions they’d each learned during their time in Ann Arbor.

I bring this up because, just as many of my peers and I feel like we are leaving the University, it does not mean we can’t take parts of our experience with us, and it certainly does not mean we cannot return hoMe. We do not need to be physically on campus to high five and celebrate with others wearing maize-and-blue attire during March Madness, or any given Saturday for that matter. We do not need to be undergraduates to continue to follow the academic research and developments being pursued on campus, and to take pride in the accomplishments of both current students and alumni. And we certainly do not need to be in Ann Arbor to stay in touch with the friends we have made here over the past four years, or to make new connections based on our shared experiences.

My connection, our connection, to this campus is far from over. And while these last five weeks will move fast for all of us, I hope we can continue to treat these lasts not as the end of an era, but as the base for our futures as Wolverines.

Matt Friend can be reached at mjfri@umich.edu.

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