I registered for the final classes of my undergraduate career Wednesday morning, and only as I wrote this sentence did it hit me how odd that is.
Class registration is routine — a twice-a-year activity that, in its mechanical regularity, has become a subtle source of comfort. Class registration means that I’m returning to Ann Arbor, and all that doing so entails. After next semester, my routine will change. That’s jarring.
It’s not just the courses I’ve taken, the papers I’ve written or the all-nighters I’ve pulled.
It’s the drive into Ann Arbor from the airport, and the swell of joy that comes with whizzing down Washtenaw, past the Arborland sign and the Rock and South U and the Hill en route to finishing a 2,300-mile journey from Los Angeles to Kerrytown.
It’s my house. The drafty walls and creaky radiators. The old futon Casey brought from Grand Rapids that has a lovable, gaping hole on its right side — which is actually really comfortable if you know where to put the pillows. The box of 175 York Peppermint Patties, replenished each semester by my grandmother, that sits on the mantle in our living room. The stacks of frozen burritos Matt keeps in our freezer, occupying at least 25 percent of the space. The dirty coils on our gas stove, and all the times we cooked chicken breasts, green beans and boxed mashed potatoes on them. The porch swing where I’ve been content to sit and sway for hours.
It’s sangria at Dominick’s, or a fishbowl at Charley’s. The party that turns into a trip to Rick’s (or as my buddy Joe calls it, “the Café”) that turns into a trip to Backroom Pizza, where no one ever knew a crappy $1 slice could taste so good. It’s the quiet evenings when making a homemade meal, playing a game of Scrabble and binge-watching a Netflix show with good friends is more satisfying than any night out.
It’s the Big House. The sea of maize. The disappointing losses of freshman and sophomore year. The electric revival of junior and senior year. The deafening voices screaming in unison and echoing across the field. Fire Hoke. Free Jabrill. Let’s Go Harbaugh. You Suck. Let’s Go Blue. The “bullshit” chants the University of Michigan (and subsequently, the band) doesn’t want national television to hear. The wave, at all speeds. The Blues Brothers dance. Mumbling and making up words to “Varsity” at the end of a win because none of us know them.
It’s walking through campus and the city. Throwing a Frisbee to a friend, or a gaze at the fall foliage in the Arb. Making sure to hop over the class of 1953’s Block ‘M’ at the Diag’s core, and staring down an emboldened, fat squirrel in the process. Admiring the Bell Tower, and wondering why the hell a column with a clock on it is so beautiful to look at as the sun sets. Heading downtown and strolling around Main Street.
It’s the winter. The rain, which turns to hail, which turns to snow, which turns to slush, which turns to ice. The wind blowing impossibly in every direction, so no matter which way you look, your hood flies off and the weather slaps you in the face. The slightly-more-aggressive-than-two-hand-touch football game, because the snow is thick and tackling makes it more legitimate, somehow. The late-night sledding with trays smuggled out of dining halls on Palmer Field and outside the Medical Center Plaza. The reprieve of spring, when the ubiquitous white melts away to reveal the green below. The first afternoon when it’s warm enough to sunbathe, even though it’s just 50 degrees. The next week where it paradoxically snows again, just as a small middle finger from the Mitten.
Choosing my last set of classes was stressful. Inherently, there existed the pressure to balance picks that satisfy the pesky, remaining distribution requirements and others that stimulate fledgling academic interests I’ll only have time to explore in depth as a college student.
Registration is always important, but if we’re being honest, it’s usually a mundane task in which our options are all-but-determined by the context of our majors.
This time was different. The choices felt more consequential, because it was the last time I’d be making them — and “lasts” carry the weight of everything that has prefaced them. It’s easy to feel paralyzed by the gravity of moments like these, but I’ve found it’s healthier to consider that the reason they feel so heavy is because the “preface” was so meaningful.
All things considered, then, I’m happy. And I’m not just talking about classes.
Michael Sugerman can be reached at email@example.com.