Last January, I wrote a post about 2015 where I wrote down what I learned from each month of the previous year.

Now it’s 2017, and this April will mark two years since I started writing here. As a college student, I’m better for having forced myself every few weeks–or months–to cull the running commentary in my mind into what has felt, to me, one of the most accurate representations of my actual growth as a person. In my life, writing as a method of meaning-making is second only to the growth that happens in real time, in hard conversations and long conversations, with myself and with the Lord and with others.

When I was walking to our library this afternoon, I was struck by the raw feeling that happens when the actions of your life weave themselves into an overlay that somehow seeps into a physical place, once just infrastructure. I’d love for you to take a look at this picture (and the illustrator behind it), because it visually describes a lot of what I’m feeling. I’m imagining some interactive map of campus created with technology that doesn’t yet exist, one that I can swivel around and zoom in on, with lines drawing my most walked routes and tags reminding me of both the memorable and mundane moments. The huge imposing structure of Wilson, our psychology building, is where I cried in a bathroom stall after getting a D on a test sophomore year. The tables of upstairs Commons remind me of nightly study sessions freshman year with friends I barely knew, desperately seeking to be needed and thinking that desire would somehow be fulfilled if everyone I knew was clamoring to spend their study time with me instead of others.

When I leave Vanderbilt, I will not remember the beauty and splendor of campus as much as I remember messy dorm rooms and cooking in low light and the silence between people who understand.

Last New Years, I flew down to the Dallas area for a week to see three friends who were going abroad that spring semester, two to Italy and one to Bolivia. This New Years, when the three of them in Dallas sent pictures of their celebration to me in Chicago with “wish you were here”s, I realized just how sweet it is to be on the uphill climb of creating traditions. I think a lot about how short college has been, how recent some of my favorite memories are–how insufficient it can feel to say that I’ve only known my closest friends from college for three and a half years.

But that’s a dangerous game to play, right? Once graduation comes, the next comparison is that: I’ve only lived in this city for a year compared to your several, been in a relationship for this many months to your marriage, just started a new job while you’re basking in a promotion. In the looming race of “most established college graduate,” I want to take myself out of the running.

Instead of the “most-established” race, I want to recognize the beauty of a season that allows us to create new traditions and relationships, embracing the transient quality of all that’s around. Traditions are full and joyful when they’ve been around for years and years, but I never want to forget the value of that healthy nervousness that comes with starting anew.