By Ilana Blattner
It is difficult to characterize the past four years of my life into words. I recall first stepping foot onto the Lincoln Park Campus as an excited freshman, lanyard looped haphazardly around my neck, and wondering if I could really make a new life for myself. How could a shy girl from Small Town, USA find her place in a sprawling city like Chicago? I didn’t know anyone, and I doubted that I would be able to make friends or any kind of meaningful connections. However, through the kindness of others, the grace of God, and by staying true to myself, I did. I can say without question that I would not be the same person I am today if I did not attend DePaul University.
I fondly recall late nights in the apartments of my friends. Sweating to death in McCabe hall. Awkwardly running into my friends in the STU dining hall. Sunday Night Mass. Working the front desk in CCM. Dumping out my purse on the sidewalk outside Sheffield Square in a failed attempt to find my lost ID card. Paying for overpriced Whole Foods pizza. Spaghetti Tuesdays. Staring at the bears in the Lincoln Park Zoo. Sweeter evenings on Sheffield that now feel so far away. These sorts of experiences seem so ordinary (or even annoying) in the moment, but in retrospect, they bring a tear to my eye. They make the DePaul experience uniquely DePaul, and I find great comfort in reflecting on and treasuring the ordinary as I am plunged into the next phase of my life with no real plan.
Having the plug pulled on my senior year a quarter early was devastating, yet as I recall how I lived and loved every day of my life at DePaul, I am grateful to know I didn’t squander a single moment. Through DePaul, I was gifted my friends. I was gifted my faith. I was gifted mentors, opportunity, laughter, love, and sorrow. The chance to travel, the chance to fall in love, and the chance to bring light and laughter into the hearts of others. All of these things shaped and formed me as I studied and continued to grow. I am proud of who I have become and the people standing beside me in the epilogue.
As I prepare to (metaphorically) walk out the doors for the final time, I would like to leave my fellow students and friends with a few things I have learned: In every instance of your experience, I hope you make the most of it. Savor the time that you have. In every interaction, I pray you choose to love. We are Vincentian, meaning that above all else, we go out and do. Do what you love, with who you love, and never try to be someone that you are not. People will find beauty in your authenticity, and once you find that light, all other good things will flock to you naturally. Thank you to everyone who has loved and supported me along the way. Your kindness has carried me, and no matter where any of us may be in the coming years, I pray you are able to look back on your DePaul days and smile. I do. What I have been given is not fragile, and come what may, I will follow the way of wisdom for the rest of my life.