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Matos ’24: Brunocollections

At the beginning of this semester, I decided to hang a string of rainbow lights around the perimeter of my room. Later that same evening, when the sun had finally set, I plugged the lights into the extension cord near my bed and marveled as the tiny red, green, yellow and blue bulbs illuminated my tiny single dorm room in a pale pink glow. As I sat there that night, pondering the start of my last semester here at Brown, I was transported back to my first day on campus three springs ago, when as a fresh-faced first year, I sat on my bed and bathed in those very same lights.

A lot has changed since the class of 2024 arrived in Rhode Island three years ago. At the height of the pandemic, our Brown careers began with a one-semester delay, “special student” status, and a single online class from home. I can only speak for myself, but for that whole fall, I felt like my life had been put on pause. I had spent so many years chasing my dream of going to college and when I had nearly made it, the finish line shifted, and I had to wait another three months for the next stage of my life to begin. It felt as if time had run still; while the world around me was in a state of greater flux and uncertainty than anyone I knew had ever seen, I was stuck in the in-between, in a place of stagnation while my future was temporarily on hold. Instead of moving into school, I spent what should have been my freshman fall, a period of enormous change and growth and new experiences, sitting miserably alone in my bedroom.

Eventually, I and the rest of my first-year peers became unstuck, and we at long last made it to Providence. Masked up, we moved into single occupancy rooms scattered across campus, picked up meals in red reusable dining bags and diligently walked through the January cold to the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center for the first of many COVID-19 tests. Moving into college for the first time is an adjustment regardless, but the isolation of Quiet Period made it a particularly challenging experience for many, myself very much included. Never in my life have I been one to speak first, to put myself out there, to introduce myself to strangers. Yet there I was, alone in a double room to myself that I wasn’t supposed to leave, with nothing but strangers all around me as neighbors. As I sat on my bed, silently staring at the faintly glowing rainbow lights I had hung up hours before with my dad and already beginning to agonize over feeling completely alone once again, I heard voices down the hall. To this day, I’m still surprised that I gathered the courage to put on shoes and leave my room, but I’m glad I did; it was the first of many tiny risks I’d take in my time here at Brown. Some of the people I met that night are still my closest friends to this day.

Winter gradually melted into spring, and Zoom game nights and pod gatherings quickly turned into late-night CVS runs and quiet study nights in the first-floor EmWool lounge. As spring blossomed into summer, and we all returned to Brown for our second semester, an experience like no other class has ever and perhaps will ever have, we traded dinners on FaceTime for picnics on the Main Green, carried out from the Ratty in those same red reusable dining bags. We made it through a brutal heat wave, most of us only mildly envious of our peers in Greg (not New Dorm, definitely not New Dorm) who had air conditioning in their rooms. We took the unfortunate hand that fate had dealt us, the constant setbacks and challenges that arose, and faced them head-on every single time with tenacity and optimism.

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I’ve spent a lot of time this semester reflecting on our first year at Brown. What I’ve shared is just a tiny and oversimplified snapshot of it all, and what I’ve come to realize is how it feels like just yesterday we walked in through the Van Wickle Gates for the first time, yet at the same time 2021 feels so far away. Time is a fickle thing, and while a moment might feel so inescapable while you’re in it, it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Friends you’ve only just met a year ago can feel like people you’ve known your whole life. Hours spent talking and laughing in a lounge can escape from you like nothing at all. The agony of waiting for a response to a risky text makes a minute feel like far, far more than that. Time is relative and our experience of it is constantly changing, and while the reason behind it might be something out of my or your grasp, the one thing I can say for certain is that it’s fleeting. 

We have only had so much time here together. Eight semesters, 35 months and that’s it. It’s a little sad to think about, that our time here as undergraduates has come to an end. But I’d like to think that we made the most of our time here while we still had it, and we still have so much ahead of us. One of the greatest things that I’ve learned to be here at Brown is spontaneous, to be unafraid of taking those tiny risks, like breaking out of my comfort zone and meeting new people down the hall. Once that moment of opportunity is gone, it’s gone for good. It’s easy to try to push things down the line, to cancel a dinner with a friend because you’ll see them tomorrow anyways, to cancel your audition slot because you’ll just try out again next semester, to skip a club meeting or practice because there’s always next week, but we never really know, do we? Will we have the same opportunity to go to the beach with our friends next weekend? Or take that ski trip? Or go to that concert in Boston? When you have the chance to do something different, something that will bring you joy, something that is different and exciting and makes the mundane parts of life that much more worthwhile, why not take it? Our time at Brown may be over, and all those choices are in the past, but we all still have so much more time and so many more choices ahead of us, so take that risk, even if it’s as teeny tiny as stepping out of your room during Quiet Period, because it might make all the difference.

Sofia Matos is a graduating senior in Brown's class of 2024.

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