If you believe that the saying “The grass is greener on the other side” holds any ounce of truth, then you better believe this: The meticulously irrigated lawn on Marston Quad will look much greener on the morning after your commencement, as your head buzzes with a hangover from the previous night’s all-too-passionate and teary goodbyes. Away you drive into the sunset of your college career, leaving behind a life of convenience too often taken for granted. Soon, your daily schedule will be bogged down with tasks such as grocery shopping (not because you want to bake your friend a birthday cake, but for actual sustenance), dishwashing, and paying bills. If you’re (un)lucky enough to start your new life in a metropolis, you daydream about the empty, quaint lot that is Claremont as you drive around for 20 minutes on a quest for a parking spot.
But there are much graver issues than these mere inconveniences. Be prepared to feel alone. I don’t mean that you should start taking flattering selfies for an OKCupid profile, but rather, be braced to occasionally feel out of place (though not to the degree of middle school, thank goodness). The hyperawareness for power dynamics, larger socio-historic trends at play, identity politics, and personal positionality within any context that I developed at Pomona College does not have an on-off switch. I’m grateful for how my mind has been sharpened by Claremont’s academics and community, but I was rather unprepared for a new peer group and a work environment that no longer held the same baseline beliefs in a culture of inclusivity (though still a work in progress) that I found at the Claremont Colleges. When new peers express confusion at the mention of heteronormativity or roll their eyes when I try to discuss the problems of gender binary, it can be a pretty isolating feeling. When a co-worker, who may have many years of seniority over your bright-eyed enthusiasm, makes a particularly off-color racist, sexist, heterosexist, or ableist joke and many others laugh along, all you might be able to do is bite your tongue and simmer in guilt and indignation later.
However, I found that over time, after relationships, mutual understanding, and respect have been built, people began reading signs of my discomfort and proactively sought out my reasons. Then, finally, came the exchange of ideas and discourse. It does get better.
This kind of post-college scattering of people with shared values leads to a strange phenomenon. When two Pomona alumni run into each other in the real world, whether at a work function, a house party, or even a bar, there is a certain amount of irrational excitement and relief. It matters not if I have not spoken to this particular alum since our first awkward encounter at the Pitzer Luau; we feel the need to trade phone numbers and promise to explore the city’s new restaurants together. Perhaps we were programmed by Pomona to feel this kinship, but that strange assumption of familiarity probably exhibits itself more often during the first few years out of college, when we are still aimless and restless.
As a student at Pomona, I always found it bizarre and even comical that alumni from so many decades all swarmed back to campus to partake in strange traditions and take an actual interest in talking to current students. As an alumnus, I would describe my primary sentiment as jealousy. I’ve seen the new landscaping upgrades, and my heart swells with bittersweet joy at the sight of the new Studio Art building’s skeleton. I was a Studio Art minor who made do with our cramped and dimly-lit classrooms, you see. However, my righteous rage burns against no one in particular for the fact that Tay-Tay Swift decided to grace the campus with her presence after I had already graduated.
I had imagined that I would become less invested in the campuses’ goings-on once society expected me to be a responsible and functional adult, but that’s far from the truth. I was disappointed to hear that Pomona’s Dining Services decided that it was hitting its long-term sustainability goals “too quickly” and decided to scale back on local, organic, and fair-trade purchasing for the sake of budgeting. I was relieved to hear that the dining hall employees were finally able to put the long-disputed union question to a vote, though I’m watching carefully to see the administration’s next steps in negotiating with the union. Campus events and the impressions and scars they leave will stay with me even after I am decades removed from Claremont.
The Claremont Colleges form a wonderful, magical bubble. Many of my post-college peers (including my high school students!) firmly refuse to believe that such a place can exist. Good luck to you, and cherish it!