HARPER: He came, he saw, he columned: Making the most of small moments

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Brian Harper

I have dreaded writing this week’s column more than any other I have produced this year. This is not because I hate goodbyes.

No, my anxiety rested in this article’s incredible potential to tank. And by tank, I mean fulfill every expectation for a capstone column.

You do not have to be pursuing a journalism degree to know what I am talking about. Goodbye articles, like 3D puzzles and upscale restaurants, are distinguished by very strict, specific rules that must be adhered to.

The author almost always begins by expressing disbelief that his or her time in school is coming to an end, as well as surprise at how quickly the time passed. Next, they offer a laundry list of significant moments, occasionally expressing a truism that summarizes a life lesson learned.

There are a few inside jokes here and a few thank you asides there before the writer concludes by saying how much they will miss college. Most importantly, they are sure to use some variation of the phrase “memories that will last a lifetime.”

I knew all this quite well as a scholar of the journalistic sciences, which, for the record, is how I intend to present myself from now on in order to sound more impressive when applying for jobs. But I had deep reservations about writing “that” column for a number of reasons.

One, I felt writing an column of the aforementioned model would make me guilty of creative plagiarism. Two, my most impressive accomplishment at Marquette was probably convincing the Rev. Father A. Wild to come to my house for dinner, but the only corresponding moral I can think of for that story is that if you invite him, he will come. Finally, I don’t have a good enough memory to be making any promises about my recollections lasting for the course of my lifespan.

Nevertheless, I wanted to come up with some grand nugget of wisdom for the final installment of one of the top six columns in this year’s Tribune Viewpoints section.

I figured if I could make my roommates sound admirable for watching football seven hours every Saturday, I should have no trouble coming up with a magnificent, inspirational theme with which to close this column.

As I thought about what this might be, I realized sweeping instances of enlightenment have not really been characteristic of my time at Marquette. Don’t get me wrong; at this university, I have certainly grown and learned a great deal about myself, others and even the world. But the times that stick out in my mind as most important are not particularly grandiose.

When I was in South Africa, I had the opportunity to climb a mountain, bungee jump, surf in the Atlantic and go on a safari, but some of my favorite memories involve very regular instances like singing karaoke with my housemates or helping a boy named Ludwe learn to play the guitar.

Though Marquette has allowed me to hear remarks from the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Paul Farmer, I have a harder time remembering what they said than I do recalling conversations I had with friends over pitchers of beer at Miss Katie’s Diner.

Given the seeming finality of graduation, it is understandable to feel the need to sum up one’s time in college as a final column-worthy, momentous collection of events. Perhaps the blessings of hindsight will provide the perspective necessary to understand this period in such a light.

Yet for now, what I will miss most about Marquette are those small, everyday moments that do not seem to matter much at first but leave fond and lasting impressions —  from starting a lemonade stand in the McCormick Hall elevators to office hours visits that were less about improving my grade and more about simply wanting to talk with the professor.

At the end of the day, these memories will do nothing to help me end this column with a bang. I am hopeful, however, that despite the cliché, they will last a lifetime.

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