I’m terrified to graduate.

It’s not for fear of the unknown or for worry about the future. After all, I’ve known since August what I’m doing after graduation, which has made this year a lot less stressful.

It’s because I can’t stand goodbyes. And in addition to all the “last times” that are inevitable over the next couple of weeks, one of the most depressing things about preparing to leave Ann Arbor is realizing that I’ve done almost everything on my University of Michigan bucket list.

Many of the items on the list are predictable University traditions, ones that almost all students will have experienced by the time they graduate. But others are more like goals — set freshman year — that took a couple of years to achieve. And even though they may have been more difficult to check off, they ended up being some of my best memories at Michigan — and should be on every student’s list.

Run through the Michigan Stadium tunnel. I stood on the Big House sidelines for 15 home games in the past two years and watched the end of the game unfold a few feet away from me. On our way back to the press box after postgame interviews during each of those Saturdays, my fellow Daily football beat reporters and I walked through the Michigan Stadium tunnel. But after this year’s Delaware State game, we decided to run.

Granted, I was in business casual and high heels, not shoulder pads and cleats. The stadium had maybe 500 people in it, not 110,000. And instead of touching the GO BLUE banner and storming into a maize-and-blue huddle, we collapsed to the turf and stared up at the sky. Despite the obvious differences, running through the tunnel that day was still the ultimate Michigan experience.

Perform at Hill Auditorium. Of course, “see a show at Hill Auditorium” is on everyone’s bucket list — the tradition of the acoustically perfect concert hall is matched only by Burton Tower, Yost Ice Arena and Michigan Stadium. But no student should leave Ann Arbor without being the one on the stage, staring out at an audience.

I was lucky enough to perform at Hill three times in college while playing the French horn in the Campus Band. Playing on the same stage where talented artists like the New York Philharmonic, B.B. King and Bob Marley once stood is more than a little humbling. Although I was in an ensemble with non-music majors, Hill Auditorium somehow makes everyone feel like professionals. Even for those who aren’t music, theatre or dance-inclined, it’s worth it to walk into the auditorium, stand on stage alone and test the acoustics of the hall.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Ann Arbor style. I feel a little ridiculous including this in the same column as my first two items. But St. Patrick’s Day is truly Ann Arbor’s Mardi Gras, and no student should leave the University without shirking all responsibilities for one day to observe the holiday.

After three years of hearing about people in green headbands, shirts, socks and beads lining the streets outside Ashley’s starting at 4 a.m., my friends and I finally decided to go all out this year. We assembled a 30-person group, went shopping for glittery green St. Patrick’s Day hats and shamrock socks, organized an itinerary and started the marathon.

By the end of the day, two of the people in our group — one from Chicago and the other from Kentucky, who were both experiencing their first St. Patrick’s Day in Ann Arbor — said they had never seen or heard about anything like it in any other town. Standing outside the South University bars before sunrise and finishing the day 17 hours later at an outdoor State Street party was something we’d never be able to do if we weren’t 21- and 22-year-old college students — and that’s exactly why we wanted to do it.

There are still a few more things I’d like to do before the class of 2010’s May 1 deadline, like exploring the University’s underground tunnel system and ringing the bells in Burton Tower. (Considering that the underground tunnels are rigged with motion sensors and students have been arrested for unlawful entry, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to pull that one off — unless the University offers guided tunnel tours that I haven’t yet heard about.)

Though it’s definitely satisfying to check things off the list, the real reason I’ve stayed so loyal to it is that it’s forced my friends and I to stop thinking about those inevitable “last times.” Instead, we’ve been focused on finding experiences that will keep pushing us out of our comfort zones.

Because that, if anything, is what going to college in Ann Arbor has been — and should be — all about.

Courtney Ratkowiak was the Daily’s managing editor in 2009. She can be reached at cratkowi@umich.edu.

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